The Government is finally starting to listen to the pig industry’s concerns, according to NPA chief executive Zoe Davies, who is increasingly that it is now considering what action it can take to help.
But she has stressed that solutions will be needed soon to prevent the already desperate situation on farms, which has forced some producers to start culling pigs to ease the pressure on space, deteriorating further.
The Government has so far failed to respond to the vocal pleadings of the pig industry for support top prevent a mass welfare cull. Worse, at times, it has a shown a complete disregard for the seriousness of the situation, most notably when Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to laugh off the industry’s concerns at the Conservative Party Conference.
However, a potent mix of media interest and activity driven by the industry and lobbying by the NPA and others is now starting to show signs of getting through to those that matter, Dr Davies said,
The Cabinet Office is now directly involved and on Monday, the NPA and pork processors held a very constructive meeting with former Tesco boss Sir Dave Lewis, who has just been appointed by Government to address current issues across the supply chain.
“There is definitely change occurring,” Zoe told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme (approx 3 mins) this morning.
She cited last week’s pig industry demonstration at the Conservative Party Conference, the mass media coverage of the pig industry’s plight and the information the NPA and other organisations have been feeding into various Government departments to highlight the scale of the problem on farms and the fact that it is reaching tipping point.
“It got to the point where we sent some images to various ministers to prove that pigs were reaching an overstocking situation on farm and that’s what triggered a small number of farms to start having to cull animals. After that, everything changed and for the first time ever, we had someone from the Cabinet Office in one of our regular Defra meetings,” Dr Davies said.
“This showed me that the message appears to have landed. I think that finally the Government has listened.”
During the meeting with Sir Dave, the NPA and processors continued to ask for access to skilled butchers from ‘wherever in the world that they maybe’, Zoe explained.
“As part of that, we have asked the Government to lower the level of English required. That is the final blocker now – it is not wages because they are over £25,000 threshold. It is coming down now to the English level requirement and the bureaucracy of the process in terms of applying for these visas.
“I am quietly optimistic. I honestly believe that the message has finally got through to the people that need to hear it. We have had so much more Cabinet Officer involvement and obviously that is the department that will make changes if they need to be made.
“Obviously, we will keep the pressure on to make sure the process goes as quickly as it possibly can to avoid any further deterioration of the situation on farm.”