A post-Brexit cheap food agenda must not be allowed to take priority over the need for the UK to build self-sufficiency in food, the National Pig Association (NPA) has told the Government.
Setting out its Brexit priorities in a letter to Defra Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom, the NPA has sought reassurances on the sector’s big issues, such as the potential threat to UK production posed by cheap, lower welfare imports.
While stating that it would welcome opportunities to further build UK export markets, the NPA letter includes a warning to Mrs Leadsom of the potential pitfalls associated with freer trade, pointing out that if EU tariffs, which currently add £45 per 100kg to the cost of imports of pig carcases, were significantly reduced in new trade deals, this could open the doors to large volumes of lower standard, imported pigmeat.
“Countries like the US, Canada and Brazil are able to produce pigmeat at a much lower cost because they have lower animal welfare and environmental standards,” said NPA policy services manager, Lizzie Wilson.
“We are absolutely adamant that the Government must not put a desire for cheap food ahead of the need to shore up the UK’s self-sufficiency in food, which has already declined alarmingly over the last few decades.”
The association wants equivalent standards of production, including animal welfare, to be negotiated into any new trade agreements and, if necessary, for UK pigmeat to be granted protected status to control the volume of tariff free imports allowed into the UK.
“The pig industry is always striving to implement standards that deliver improved animal welfare, but we must be mindful not to make the industry uncompetitive and effectively export our production to countries where welfare is lower,” said Mrs Wilson (pictured above).
The NPA has also called for the UK’s post-Brexit agricultural policies to support pig farmers in delivering public goods such as reducing antibiotic usage by improving animal health. In addition, it is seeking “grant funding and some sort of tax relief” to help producers with reinvestment in new buildings, equipment and infrastructure.”
NPA’s Brexit strategy also includes to:
- Ensure Defra dedicates the same resource and effort into keeping animal disease out, as extending export markets, as ultimately the two are intrinsically linked.
- Ensure EU citizens wanting to work in the UK pig sector are not prevented from doing so because of complicated application processes or delays to visa processing.
- Strengthen checks at major ports and increasing penalties for illegally imported products.
- Ensure the pig sector is included in any discussions on future welfare standards.
“We welcome steps taken so far by Defra to include NPA in preliminary talks and look forward to this relationship continuing as we make the case for a fair Brexit deal for the pig industry,” said Mrs Wilson.