NPA chairman Rob Mutimer has called on the Government and supply chain to support the struggling pig industry as it seeks recovery in 2022 from the horrors of 2021.
In his New Year message, Mr Mutimer described 2021 as the ‘perfect storm’ for the pig sector. “COVID-19 was initially quite friendly to the industry, but the bite in the tail of the loss of Chinese exports and illness and staff shortages reducing the throughput of the processing sector has really hurt us,” he said.
“With this being further compounded by Brexit, increased production costs and drop in the pig price, the industry has had a great deal to cope with over the past 12 months.”
A serious backlog of pigs remains on farms, which is still causing huge problems for some farmers who have run out of options – the NPA has heard of 30,000 pigs that have been culled and destroyed so far, which is likely to be an under-estimate. The financial situation is also dire for many amid falling pig prices and record costs of production.
“Although we are in the depths of our problems as I write, I do believe we are starting to see the first chinks of light for recovery in 2022 – starting with the arrival of some desperately-needed butchers, although how many remains to be seen,” Mr Mutimer added.
“With some plants having received inspections in recent months, we will hopefully see renewed access to the Chinese pork market, which is seeing some strong growth in prices in the third quarter of 2021.
“We have also seen strong sales of retail pig meat as we have come through COVID, which we should be confident of, as the price difference between pork and beef/lamb has never been greater.”
“But as we move into 2022, we really need to fix the broken supply chain, so that all parts of it are sharing the burden during these difficult times. Producers want fairness in their dealings with processors and, while we appreciate the efforts of those retailers who have been backing British pork, we need to see all retailers prioritising our fantastic British product over cheap imports.
“As we seek recovery and a brighter future for our sector, we will also need the full backing of the Government in ensuring any support it delivers achieves its aim of reducing the backlog, rather than simply benefiting processors.”
He welcomed indications the Government is planning to look further into the pork supply chain, which he said needs to be held to account, and called for a proportionate approach to some of the big policy issues the industry currently faces.
NPA fighting on members’ behalf
He stressed that while an enormous amount of the NPA’s time and energy this year has been spent firefighting the well-known industry problems with backlog of pigs, it has not been at the expense of the other issues that have been ongoing.
“The fantastic, focused and hard-working NPA team have, to their enormous credit, worked tirelessly on many other projects such as Farming Rules for Water, welfare during transport, the farrowing crate debate, Zinc oxide ban and ASF contingency planning,” he added.
“The sheer number of Defra consultations along with new trade talks and deals has been very challenging for the small NPA team. Although we do not always get everything we want from the consultations, we are always in the room to reduce potential impact to the sector and the team can claim real success many areas.”