May 2015: Dealing with doolally brussels

During the past month, we’ve been involved in our usual round of regional meetings. I have to say, even though I often have to stay away and leave my long-suffering husband to look after the boy, that I thoroughly enjoy doing them. You may not think that we’re bothered who turns up, but we really do love seeing you all – much like when we manage to drag ourselves away from darkened meeting rooms in the bowels of Defra and get to go out on a farm and see actual pigs. It helps to remind us what we are doing it all for. Next time you get the invite and are in two minds whether or not to come, please do make the effort as we really do appreciate it.

You may be aware that for the past couple of months, the NPA has been running a “Keep it Up!” campaign, that praises UK retailers for sticking to their British supply commitments. There are actually seven retailers supplying 100% fresh British pork, which is pretty impressive, and we’ve been at pains to congratulate them.

Quite often in retailer meetings we’re berated for sticking the boot in when things aren’t going our way, but saying nothing when they do something positive. Well this time we have laid it on so thick they can’t help but take notice. All except Asda, of course, where the latest Porkwatch figures are appalling. It constantly manages to get away with it too, and I’ve had enough!

In the past, Asda used the excuse that it was an every-day low-price retailer and its customers placed value over everything else, including origin. Maybe now it’s losing market share to Aldi and Lidl, which manage perfectly well, it’ll have to rethink it’s strategy.

The YouGov research we released certainly backed up our claim that consumers want to buy British. Of course our premium is still staggeringly high, and unlikely to stay that way for much longer, but we aim to hold onto it for as long as we possibly can.

The powers that be in Brussels appear to have gone doolally recently too. Not only has the new commissioner, Jean Claude Juncker, decided that GMOs are such a tricky topic that he wants to hand most (but not all) of the decision making over to individual member states on whether they allow the use of GMOs for feed and food, but the in-feed medication regulation battle also continues to cause frustration for anyone with any common sense.

On the GMO front, the changes could mean that pig and poultry production in some key countries would no longer able to continue. We import 80% of the protein required in the EU, most of which is GM, so if certain countries decide to ban it, lord knows where they are going to be able to find and source non-GM protein from, or what it would cost.

On in-feed medication, not only do we have the EC plucking figures out of thin air to contend with, we also have differing opinions across the member states, so trying to get our points through the EU farming organisation Copa-Cogeca is quite difficult. We’ll lobby independently on the key points, however, and ensure that our MEPs out there are fully briefed with our position, thanks to the British Agriculture Bureau team in Brussels.

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About The Author

Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA. For more information visit: www.npa-uk.org.uk