The Government’s Brexit ‘No Deal’ technical papers, published yesterday, have done little to quell the uncertainty pig farmers are experiencing about our future, NPA chairman Richard Lister has told the BBC.
Mr Lister was interviewed on Radio 5 Live’s Phil Williams show on Thursday as the ‘B’ (for bacon) in BLT, as the programme explored Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s BLT sandwich comments made as he announced the Government’s No Deal plans.
You can listen to the interview here (just after 14 minutes)
Asked about the papers, Mr Lister said: “It continues the lack of clarity as we go forward. That has been the big worry for pig producers in terms of trying to understand what the future looks like.”
Nonetheless, he said, as a pig farmer, he was ‘cautiously optimistic, which as a Yorkshireman is about as good as it gets’. “We have got a first class product produced to some of the highest welfare standards in the world,” he said. “We are very competitive on that basis. We only provide 50% of what the UK eats in terms of pigment, so we are only 50% self-sufficient, meaning there are still good opportunities for us to grow our own market.”
Pointing out that the industry has grown its export trade to £400m of product, including higher welfare niche markets, he said there were also ‘some huge opportunities’ to grow that further post-Brexit.
He stressed, however, that the industry would need a great deal more certainty about the future if there was to be any significant expansion of the UK pig herd post-Brexit.
He said: “We are a sector that has gone through some real difficulties. We had unilateral legislation (the sow stall ban), which started the demise of the pig herd – we are now half the size of what we were 20 years ago. To grow that again would take a great deal of reinvigoration and confidence in the sector.
“Clearly, with the indecision that surrounds Brexit at the moment, the level of investment is reduced. The appetite for investment is held back.”
Questioned on the detail of the technical papers, he made it clear a No Deal could make life very difficult for exporters. For example, there would be a whole new set of requirements around export certification.
“It is a huge area. It would require huge new raft of staff to make sure, if we are no longer operating under the jurisdiction of the EU, to provide that certification to make sure we can get out product around the world,” he said.