April 2015: Tell your MP about pig issues

In between getting ready for the inaugural meeting of our new Producer Group, the Brussels breakfast for MEPs and an All Party Parliamentary Group for Pigs, Eggs and Poultry meeting for MPs, it’s been a busy few weeks. Every pocket that doesn’t have a small child’s toy lodged in it (I find the strangest things in my pockets these days!) has been stuffed with a squidgy stress pig with the NPA logo on it – a must for any MP/MEP meeting! Hopefully they’ll find them useful in the run up to the general election with stress levels running high.

This is a crucial time for groups like us as MPs are in listening mode and more likely to take note of our major concerns and issues. Lizzie has been busy drafting our MEP and MP manifestos, which Digby has crafted into a booklet that we’ll be sending to members soon.

MPs are more likely to listen to their constituents, so even if you’ve never thought about meeting with them before, please do and take the leaflet with you. We’ve listed all of the major points we believe MPs can help us with, especially if they’re members of the winning party, so this is your opportunity to make yourself heard!

There’s been quite a lot of talk here and in Brussels about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the trade deal being negotiated between the EU and US. Our main concerns lie with the fact that US pork is produced much more cheaply than UK or even EU pork because they’re allowed to do many things that we aren’t (sow stalls, antibiotic growth promoters and using ractopamine, which promotes lean growth). The US also has access to many more GM varieties, so feed is cheaper, not to mention the preferential exchange rate. We’re arguing for equivalent standards, which we’re unlikely to get, certainly on welfare, and EU pig producers are worried that concessions will be made on pork to allow the EU to export other high-value products to the US. Although it’s a long process, we need to keep our eye on this as the impact could be significant.

We had really good media interest in the press release that we put out a couple of weeks ago detailing YouGov survey results on consumer attitudes to British food and imports. According to the study, 80% of consumers think retailers should continue to stock British to maintain confidence after the horsegate scandal, and 65% believe that importing EU pork not produced to Red Tractor standards could increase the risk of another scandal occurring.

While we all know that shoppers often say one thing and do another, it gave us the opportunity that we needed to plug those retailers that have continued to stock 100% British fresh pork regardless of the EU pork price. It was also quite nice to be able to do a Farming Today interview that wasn’t contentious for a change!

Although our price has come down quite a way in the past six months, we’re still tracking way above the EU price, with some countries getting less than £1/kg. How they’re still in business I don’t know, but if we can keep retailers backing us, we should hopefully keep a healthy premium.

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

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