NPA responds to EFRA UK food security inquiry

NPA responds to EFRA UK food security inquiry

The National Pig Association (NPA) has said there is opportunity for the UK to become more self-sufficient with pig meat, in response to the Commons Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee inquiry into UK food security.

When launched in July this year, committee member Dr Neil Hudson MP said the inquiry was intended to allow the committee to “look at food security, make recommendations to government to bolster [industry] resilience and contribute to the global food crisis that is looming”, following challenges including the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and Brexit.

In response to the inquiry, NPA said the key factors affecting the food supply chains are labour shortages and Covid-19 disruption in processing plants, which has led to “huge backlogs of contracted pigs on farms and needless culling of tens of thousands of healthy animals.”

Since October 2020, pig farmers across the UK have collectively lost more than £600 million and have been losing more than £50 per pig since January 2022, according to NPA.

Following this, it added that there is still a significant gap that needs to be bridged between the Standard Pig Price (SPP) and the cost of production. It continued: “Defra’s June 2022 census reported that the sow herd in England has contracted by 17% year-on-year and is now at its lowest number for 20 years.”

Self-sufficiency needed

Another issue in the pig supply chain, according to NPA, is that UK farmers are so heavily reliant on four major processing companies, with 90% of UK production being slaughtered and processed by these companies.

Regarding the UK’s self-sufficiency, NPA said the UK is 58% self-sufficient in pig meat, which is lower than other proteins such as lamb (109%), beef (86%) and poultry (65%).

NPA added: “It is important to note that trade plays a key role in carcase balance for the pig industry and, therefore, it is more complex than simply saying we produce 58% of what we eat. UK consumers prefer cuts from the leg and loin, and there are simply not enough pigs in the UK to satisfy that demand.

“There is an opportunity for the UK to become more self-sufficient in pig meat again if demand can be sustainably increased and the right market conditions return to make the industry more viable.”

Unprecedented disruption

NPA senior policy adviser Charlie Dewhirst commented: “We very much welcome this inquiry and are pleased to support the EFRA Committee in their work. In the last two years we have witnessed unprecedented supply chain disruption in the pig sector and a catastrophic market failure.

“The end result is less domestic supply and reduced food security for the UK. We hope the Committee will agree that there is work to be done to put British food production on a more sustainable footing and ensure we are better placed to manage external shocks in the future.”

Rising pressures

The Chair of the EFRA Committee Sir Robert Goodwill MP said: “Our food producers are facing extremely challenging times – with rising energy and fertiliser prices as well as the war in Ukraine. These pressures are now also being felt by consumers.

“The government is not responsible for all the problems facing food supply chains, but it is essential it does all it can to help manage these pressures as it implements its new food strategy.”

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