March 2014: Planning starts now for producer group elections

I did say my next column could be commenting on a completely different landscape, and I wasn’t wrong. It’s been a busy few weeks, with NPA tackling DAPP, impending disease concerns, a new book called Farmageddon and wet weather problems, among numerous other issues.

I’ll kick off with possibly the most contentious of them – Cranswick’s decision to stop reporting into the DAPP. The various concerns expressed by processors, predominantly that the DAPP didn’t adequately reflect the majority of pigs sold, had been discussed by the BPEX board and the feasibility of splitting the DAPP into standard and non-standard pigs had been examined and found to be feasible.

But, evidently this wasn’t enough for Cranswick – or Karro, which promptly followed suit. But hats off to Tulip for sticking with the DAPP.

The company claimed that it had competition concerns. Now remember, the DAPP is a historical price-recording mechanism, not a price-setting mechanism. It’s entirely up to each processor and its suppliers to decide whether the DAPP should be an element of supply contracts.

The NPA felt that Cranswick’s action was driven by a desire to undermine the DAPP, with all that would entail for contracts. As we’ve been told on many occasions, retailers and processors want British, but they want it at a price!

Fortunately, we were one step ahead. Last year the NPA spoke to each of the marketing groups with a view to agreeing a plan of action should the worst happen. So the industry was well prepared, bearing in mind that it doesn’t matter whether price information for the DAPP is obtained from the buyers (marketing groups and producers) or the sellers. It’s the same information.

We are determined that the DAPP will continue in one form or another, and that it continues to be an accurate reflection of the prices paid for pigs. It’s a legal requirement to provide the European Commission with price data, and it’s vital for an effective, properly functioning market.

Now onto that other current (unfortunately) popular discussion point – disease, and more specifically ASF and PEDv, both of which keep our chairman awake at night.

We’re determined that as an industry we should do everything we can to keep these diseases out, hence our latest ‘Keep Disease Out’ campaign. We’ve been pushing Government (Defra and AHVLA) to improve border controls and will, in time, focus on public transport routes into Britain, specifically airlines, to ensure passengers are aware of the dangers of bringing in any meat products from Lithuania and Russia.

You may have seen the warning leaflets and posters when arriving in Australia and New Zealand. That’s exactly what we want to try and emulate here.

You may also be aware of the lorry-wash poll on the NPA website recently. Please participate if you haven’t already. This was launched as we firmly believe that abattoirs would, in the case of a significant disease threat, be the weakest link in our defences.

We will also be discussing this with retailers during our next round of meetings. So far the response has been very positive, and supportive of this drive as they recognise the importance of good lorry-washing facilities. Just remember our export market is now worth £350 million annually (which will only increase), and any notifiable disease outbreak would destroy this in one fell swoop.

I’m not writing about the Pig Idea this month, because I’m sick of talking about it.

So, this is my penultimate column. It’s all gone by in a bit of a blur really, but we’re all looking forward to having ‘the boss’ back. Onwards and upwards!

> The NPA’s regions manager Lizzie Press is standing in as general manager during Zoë Davies’ maternity leave

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