As Brexit negotiations drag on, Pig World looks at how the lingering uncertainty is affecting the industry – and gauges the sector’s hopes and fears for the future. Today, we are looking at how producers are preparing…
The current fear of the unknown among producers appears to be balanced, in part at least, by a healthy degree of optimism for the future.
Yorkshire farmer and NPA chairman Richard Lister said there has been a general ‘tightening of belts’, including within his own business, which he attributed to a mix of Brexit uncertainty and recent difficult market conditions. “The combination has made people risk averse,” he said.
Although he remains optimistic it will be averted, he said a no deal would be a ‘frightening prospect’ for the pig sector, particularly with reduced export access to the EU.
“The latest figures showed pork exports were worth £498 million last year, which equates to £50 for each pig slaughtered. The big question is how much of that trade we would maintain,” he said.
But he cited the ‘hole’ in Chinese pig production and likely impact of higher Chinese demand on the global market as cause for optimism. “There should be some good prices as the year goes on and that would help alleviate some of the potential downsides of Brexit and keep people producing pigs in this time of uncertainty,” he said.
“In the meantime, you have just got to keep your head down and keep looking for efficiencies.”
Norfolk outdoor producer Chris Fogden said the increased uncertainty had made him more risk averse, but he blamed a lot of the negativity around Brexit on ‘project fear’.
“There might be the odd hiccup but I’m sure it will be alright in the end. Day will still follow night and farmers will still be grumbling,” he said.
He hopes the new post-Brexit agricultural regime ‘might give rise to more opportunities for those of us that are used to operating without subsidies’.
Stephen Thompson, who runs award-winning Moss Valley Fine Meats pig business in Sheffield with his wife Karen, said he was ‘just getting on with the day-to- day work’.
He said: “We have plans for a new finishing shed, but this is on hold until we see where we are going. We are also investing in further butchery capacity, to expand in the UK and, maybe, with the Made In Sheffield mark into overseas markets, but at the moment we have no idea where we are going to end up.”
Mr Thompson said it was vitally important markets are kept open and that new post- Brexit trading arrangements do not turn the UK into ‘a dumping ground for the rest of the world’.
Breeding companies are certainly feeling the impact of the uncertainty. Simon Guise, Rattlerow Farms’ UK sales manager, said: “We are very nervous about arranging exports anywhere near April 12 as we don’t really know what the requirements are going to be. This uncertainty is not helpful for our business at the moment and the sooner it is sorted out the better for us.”