The Government has launched its review of the UK pig sector intended to improve fairness and transparency in the industry.
The consultation has been published on the Defra website. It will run until October 7 and invites views from pig farmers, abattoirs, processors, retailers, marketing groups and all stakeholders involved in the pig supply chain across the whole country.
There are 47 questions for respondents to answer, seeking views on issues such as transparency, price reporting, clarity of contractual terms and conditions, and market consolidation. While the questions focus very much on the relations between producers and processors, there is an opportunity to comment on ‘any other issues or suggestions regarding the pig supply chain’, which could include the role played by retailers.
The review could ultimately lead to new legislation governing relations, including contracts, within the supply chain.
It is a UK wide consultation, undertaken by Defra with the agreement of the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and DAERA.
The review notes that the pig sector has seen significant challenges in recent years, including an oversupply of pigs ‘arising as a result of rapidly declining export demand by China, and the lack of skilled butchers in processing plants, compounded by the outbreak of Covid-19, which led to a significant backlog of pigs on farms.
It sets out the support that has been provided by the UK administrations so far, but ‘recognises that more may be done’.
“Stakeholders have suggested there is a lack of transparency between processors and producers, and that a more consistent approach across processors may bring positive benefits to the sector,” the review overview states.
“The purpose of this consultation is to gather evidence about how supply arrangements in the pig sector currently function and to explore the nature of the relationships between the various parties in the supply chain. It is also seeking views on whether the functioning of the supply chain can be improved.”
It notes that pig producers in the UK tend to be small, individual businesses supplying highly consolidated businesses further up the supply chain who command substantial shares of the market.
“This disparity can make pig producers vulnerable to unfair trading practices. The Agriculture Act 2020 introduced the ‘Fair Dealings Powers’ which are designed to address any unfair practices, enabling Government to introduce regulations to oversee the relationship between producers and buyers where necessary,” it added.
The Government said any interventions in the pig sector following this consultation will be designed to ensure farm businesses can engage in smart business planning and risk management, supporting a competitive and resilient sector that delivers benefits for producers, consumers, and taxpayers.
Once responses have been analysed, a summary of responses will be published to outline findings and propose any actions. Any further action in response to the findings of this consultation will be discussed and agreed with the Devolved Administrations.
Engage with consultation
Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said: “Recent months have been very difficult for pig farmers due to a range of pressures including rising costs and global labour shortages. We have engaged closely with the sector to support them in considerably reducing the backlog of pigs on farms and I continue to work with producers and retailers to support the sector.
“I am a firm believer in ‘Buy British’ and supporting our domestic pig producers, and a fair and transparent supply chain is paramount. I hope the industry engages fully with this consultation so that we can help to address the challenges that they are facing.”
Scottish Government’s Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mairi Gougeon said: “The Covid-19 pandemic and the continued lack of available skilled labour have had a disproportionate impact on the pig sector. It is imperative that we understand the current supply arrangements within the sector and explore the nature of the relationships between the various parties in the supply chain.
“I welcome this consultation, with the hope that it effects proposals for a more consistent approach across the pig supply chain. I would like to encourage all producers and processors, across Scotland, to take part in this consultation and ensure that their voices are heard on this matter.”
Welsh Government Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths said: “These are challenging times for the pig sector and I encourage everyone involved in the industry in Wales to respond to the consultation. This will enable us to gather important feedback and evidence about how supply arrangements in the pig sector currently function and to explore the nature of the relationships between the various parties in the supply chain.”
Northern Ireland Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots MLA said: “The pig sector has seen significant challenges recently with pig farmers being financially impacted by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, a marked reduction in skilled labour, increased feed costs and moving pigs off the farm for slaughter.
“I am committed to raising the issue of fairness for pig farmers in the marketplace and exploring further any issues faced in the pig sector. I am pleased that Northern Ireland stakeholders will have the opportunity to take part in this UK wide consultation and I strongly encourage all Northern Ireland stakeholders to respond.”