Writing in the January issue of Pig World, NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson highlighted some of the progress made by NPA during the crisis-ridden past 12 months and sets out some of the issues coming down the track in 2023.
Well, that was another… year. There’s absolutely no point in me reliving the continued crisis blow by blow in this article – you’re all acutely aware because it’s been your life, and for that, I’m sorry that this year hasn’t been better.
NPA began the year with fresh enthusiasm after another huge wave of media coverage and we were buoyed by the continued public support.
It all helped ram the message home to Parliament, and Secretary of State at the time, George Eustice, specifically, that we’d done all we could as a sector, and it was time for them to step up to the plate and intervene.
The emergency measures had been welcome, but they’d not really done the job, and we needed more. The SoS did indeed convene an emergency summit, which didn’t produce any tangible actions, but it did help to maintain the pressure. As did the EFRA Committee’s report on labour, which we could have written ourselves!
Then came the long-awaited Defra consultation on Contractual Practice in the UK Pig Sector. Hallelujah! They’d actually recognised the crux of the problem.
While a consultation alone won’t drive the change needed, it is the very important start of this journey and we’ll be pushing hard for significant progress in 2023.
We would love to turn this around very quickly, but we need to be realistic. The dairy sector has done some of the heavy lifting for us, so we’re hoping our route to legislation (fingers crossed) will be shorter than theirs.
This policy work is fundamental to the future of our sector, but the other work must also continue, and there is quite a list!
Environmentally, there are the next phases of slurry grants and Farming Rules for Water to keep us busy, while health and welfare-wise, there is lots to come on the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway and consultations galore with the Veterinary Medicines Regulation and Medicated Feeds (for those at our regionals, yes this was supposed to be before Christmas!) and welfare labelling, which is another can of worms to get stuck in to.
The biggie this year is likely to be the Brexit Freedoms Bill and it feels like we’re standing at the bottom of Everest with it as the timelines are very ambitious, to say the least.
We’re pretty sure the NGO pressure will carry on for soya, farrowing crates and all their usual grievances with producing meat – the campaigns lack substance and press attention has been minimal, but they can be a noisy bunch.
Thankfully, Farming Minister, Mark Spencer has followed on from Victoria Prentice with an eminently sensible view on this type of policy.
The dirty tactics of activists haven’t let up, though, and so being extra cautious and vigilant remains a key message from us, in the very least because of the biosecurity nightmare they can cause.
With ASF far too close for comfort and swine dysentery and other endemic health issues still bubbling away under the surface, biosecurity has never been more important.
We’re expecting to hear early this year from Defra on the review of the ASF border control measures brought in on September 1 – we want to push harder to strengthen these controls and we’ll need your help with this when the time is right.
APHA is already under extreme pressure due to the prolonged and unprecedented AI outbreak, and it’s becoming alarmingly apparent that any other concurrent severe outbreak would simply exhaust current resources entirely.
Therefore, please take all possible precautions on your units; we have a responsibility, as a sector, to ensure the farm gate is the last line of defence.
Chink of light
It does feel like we’re starting the new year with a chink of light at the end of a very long tunnel – with some pigs having been pulled forward in the run-up to Christmas, the elusive tightening in supply is starting to become apparent.
We all know post-Christmas sales are never favourable for us, but will a bit of a domestic pork shortage, as well as more sparse European supply, combined with pork being competitively priced versus other more expensive proteins, really make a difference?
A return to recessionary buying behaviour will mean a boost for the discounters, some of which are renowned for their support of British, but not all. But could others follow suit, as they’ve already spotted just how well it seems to work for the likes of Aldi?
2022 was tough, but as NPA, we promise to do all we can to make 2023 a better one for this fantastic industry, which we’re very proud to represent.
So Happy New Year from all of us at NPA!