October 2014: Busy is always best at the NPA

It’s been another busy month for the NPA, which is good as the busier we are the less likely we are to get into trouble! At the beginning of the month we held our first strategy planning session with a few carefully picked invitees (not all the usual suspects) to help us identify the future challenges and opportunities for both the industry and NPA, as we see them today, to help me develop the business plan for the organisation going forward.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the policy priorities identified were predictable – disease, exports, disease, unwanted legislation and more disease, but it was good to know that we’re on the right track. The difficult part is not actually what we need to focus on, but how we go about it, and that’s what the team and I need to work on now. Once the first draft of the plan has been agreed by the NPA board in November, the document will be opened up for all members’ scrutiny. I’d really appreciate your input – we are, after all, your trade association.

That same week, I took two respected vets with me to DEFRA to tackle the thorny issue of bovine TB (bTB) in pigs. We’ve been struggling with a couple of difficult cases where excessive movement restrictions have been applied after bTB was found in one or two animals at slaughter and cases have been treated differently depending on which area they were found in.

The discussion was positive, and DEFRA has agreed to complete the TB policy document we initially called for in 2010. I think it now realises this really does need doing, if only to help us communicate to producers exactly what they can expect to happen if TB does rear its ugly head, and to have a defined exit strategy in place (still working on it Sally!). Also, it will allow larger businesses to make strategic decisions on where to site herds to try and avoid an issue in the first place.

We’ve also started our regular round of autumn meetings with retailers – all the more important now that pressure on price is mounting. What we need to impress on them most firmly is that just because the price of wheat is hitting the floor, it doesn’t mean that this is the price producers paid for it. We also need to continually remind them that buying meat in from countries like Poland is becoming increasingly risky because of the continued spread of ASF – who knows where it will end up next.

I heard yesterday that processors have been rolling pigs again due to “lack of demand”. How can this be acceptable when we know that they’re still bringing imported product in?

Not long ago we had a producer who, after being rolled for a few weeks, was a bit tight on space and typically ended up with a night-time visitor who could have easily taken plenty of pictures that wouldn’t have helped our industry image. I accept pigs sometimes have to be rolled because of breakdowns, but this irresponsible behaviour by the processors is unacceptable and we’ll be having words.

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

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