NPA sets up industry Government forum to manage COVID-19 issues

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies has set up a pig industry-Government COVID forum to ensure Defra and its enforcement agencies are kept aware of the current problems facing farms and the processing sector.

The forum will also help to develop a forward plan for how to monitor and manage both existing and future COVID issues on farm and in processing plants.

A number of pork processing plants across the country have been forced to temporarily close or operate at reduced capacity due to COVID-19 outbreaks in recent weeks which has resulted in a growing backlog of pigs on farms, causing welfare problems in some cases.

The NPA has been working closely with processors to try and find ways to manage the situation on farm and has also been communicating to Defra and local health authorities to ensure the right balance is found between managing outbreaks, but also keeping food supplies moving and avoiding welfare problems.

Dr Davies praised the efforts of processors that had worked very hard to  keep plants open, and maintain as much throughput as possible, but said it was inevitable there will be further disruption which the industry needed to be prepared for.

“The aim of the forum is to enable us to share information so we can try to manage the backlog of pigs and ensure the industry is better prepared when outbreaks hit,” she said.

With the widespread plant disruption coming during the busy run up to Christmas, plant capacity is currently stretched to the limit, with little flexibility in the system to cope with excess pigs on farms.

“We are doing all we can ensure everybody across the supply chain and in Government are aware of the situation and working together to find solutions, particularly looking at worst case scenario planning should the need arise,” she said.

“It’s not something I feel comfortable looking at, but I would much rather we were prepared and had a plan ready to go if needed to avoid a much worse situation on farm.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.