I’m optimistic we will get a deal – otherwise cull sows will be worthless!

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies writes in the latest issue of Pig World about how her life is being dominated by two subjects. 

Currently my life appears to have been taken over by either trying to anticipate politicians’ next move on Brexit (oh for that crystal ball!) and trying to think about what else we can possibly do to prevent African swine fever (ASF) from getting into our pigs. Both of which could have huge implications for you lot if we get it wrong!

Brexit is harder to predict because of the huge variety of views and opinions shared by MPs and it seems that we are still no closer to getting agreement on anything despite there only being a few weeks until we are supposed to leave! Most politicians, as far as I can see, don’t want a no deal, which is a good thing for us.

Aside from recent positive noises being made about the potential for a slight delay and the prospect of import tariffs to protect the home market, the biggest thing that concerns me if we don’t get a deal and resort to WTO rules is what on earth we would do with our cull sows.

At the moment, the tariff on carcases is 45p/kg. Average cull sow value at time of writing is around 58-63p/kg. Taking into account processing and shipping costs, this effectively means cull sows would have no, or even negative, value.

Processors have consistently told us that there is no demand for cull sow meat in the UK and therefore they wouldn’t want it. There is also no storage space to be had thanks to Brexit, so options are limited.

Needless to say, we are making Defra acutely aware of this issue. Current advice is to encourage producers to plan to keep herd age as low as possible at least for a while until we have a bit more clarity.

Me? I’m still optimistic that we will get a deal. Aside from Mr Rees-Mogg and his cavalier crew, I really can’t see anyone that wants to crash out, so odds are that we will agree something.

The other, perhaps more frightening aspect, is what is happening quietly in the background on the legal side. Ed and I met with a prominent MP last week who was only able to spare about 30 mins with us to talk about ASF (which was actually very useful), because of the large amount of statutory instruments they were passing through as they transfer EU law into UK legislation.

He said they were taking about one a day and that most politicians had little knowledge of the topics they were covering, certainly not to the depth required (he had pesticides that day) and certainly not enough time or scrutiny was being given to them. They are just relying on civil servants to advise them correctly.

Having been a civil servant for five years, this did not fill me with a huge amount of confidence! Let’s just hope they don’t change too much for now…

The second battle is on ASF. It seems every day I get new notifications of where it has cropped up. Despite the Belgians optimistically thinking they could control it, there have now been 522 reported wild boar deaths and two people arrested, allegedly for bringing in wild boar from an affected country for shooting. Now, more than ever, we need to get the message across to the public about the risk of this horrible disease.

After continued lobbying by us, Defra have been in discussions with UK Border Force on raising the risk level of imported meat products, which will hopefully help, and they have also had discussions with the Forestry Commission about intensifying cull efforts in the Forest of Dean. Watch this space.

At least Veganuary is over… I have to admit to eating even more meat in January just to do my bit and had to smile when told by Kantar that the volume of meat sold in the last 12 weeks had not fallen at all, so, despite all the noise, it seems that Veganuary wasn’t as successful as they like to proclaim.

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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