Farming Minister Victoria Prentis has revealed the Government’s intention to introduce regulation to ensure fairness in the pork supply chain.
She told MPs that ‘pigs are definitely next’, following on from ongoing Government work on fairness in dairy supply chains. With the current crisis raising a number of issues about how the supply chain operates, Mrs Prentis’s comments will be welcomed by pig producers.
During a debate on the contribution of food and drink to the UK economy last week, MPs discussed the issues the pig sector is facing and wider concerns around fairness in the supply chain.
Shadow Farming Minister Daniel Zeichner questioned Mrs Prentis on progress with the pig industry support package, quoting the NPA figure of 16,000 pigs culled on farm that have been notified, but adding: “We know that actually the figure is sadly likely to be much higher. How many of the pork butchers that were promised have arrived? How much has gone into private storage so far? I fear that the answer may well be none and none.”
He also urged the Government to look at the wider supply chain issues. “We know that under the Agriculture Act 2020, the Government are bound to produce a report on food security by the end of the Session. That is within two weeks,” he said.
“We also need fairness within the supply chain. We have heard about the power of the retailers, and the imbalance of power. What we are seeing at the moment, I fear, is that although consumers may be benefiting from the price competition between retailers, they are just pushing the pressure down the supply chain harder and harder, which is not sustainable.
“Perhaps she (Mr Prentis) could tell us something about where the Government have got to on those supply chain contracts, and on dairy contracts, the consultation on which was, of course, a while ago.”
Mrs Prentis acknowledged that labour is a major challenge across the industry due to ‘a very tight labour market’.
“We are working closely with the Home Office to introduce temporary visa solutions: for example, for poultry workers before Christmas, ensuring that turkeys will be on the table; and for butchers. Other mitigations for the pig sector include the slaughter incentive payment scheme and the private storage aid scheme,” she said.
On the wider supply chain issues, she said the work on the dairy supply chain was ‘coming to fruition’. “It has been a difficult and sensitive piece of work. I hope that we will be in a position to regulate next year, and pigs are definitely next on the list in terms of supply chains,” she said.
She highlighted the role of former Tesco boss Sir David Lewis on the new supply chain advisory group and the new industry taskforce, which she said will look to pre-empt future issues.