Pork sector presses to see results of Defra’s supply chain review

Pork sector presses to see results of Defra’s supply chain review

The results of Defra’s review of the pork supply chain, completed last autumn is long overdue according to some, who are becoming increasingly concerned about the current pork price increase and its impact on smaller independent manufacturers.

Completed last autumn the review was designed to help deliver lasting reform and a fairer trading environment for struggling sections of the British pork producing and processing industry. Managing director of sausage manufacturer, Porky Whites Ltd, Fran White said: “Pork prices have risen to an alarming level, and it is significantly impacting the smaller independent manufacturers. However, there seems to be a lack of discussion around this issue, and it is not getting the attention it deserves.”

The National Pig Association (NPA) made eight key asks in its response to Defra’s consultation, setting out a blueprint for a fairer, more transparent and, ultimately, more sustainable pork supply chain.

Key asks include the introduction of legislation to underpin new pig contracts, which would allow producers, marketing groups and pork processors to negotiate terms that work for all parties, including ensuring a fair price for producers, and backed by an effective dispute resolution mechanism.

The NPA called for better forecasting to improve business planning, as part of a wider drive to increase transparency across the chain, and for pork buyers to make better use of the entire pig carcase, rather than just selective cuts.

NPA chief policy adviser Rebecca Veale said: “We have moved from a situation where processors did not have the capacity to take the number of pigs available, causing horrendous backlogs on farm, to one where we now have a shortage of British pigs. 

“Pig prices are now rising as a result, but this degree of volatility is in nobody’s interests, which is why we want to see a more balanced trading environment, better forecasting and for buyers to take a longer-term perspective. 

“The initial consultation focused very much on the processor-producer relationship, but our message to Defra all along has been that any solution to this imbalance of power must include the retailers, who set the tone for the rest of the chain.

“We know that Defra has a lot on its plate at the moment, but this piece of work must remain a priority and continue to be driven forward at all opportunities. It is in everybody’s interests to bring about a fairer, more sustainable pork supply chain to help ensure continued domestic supply.”

Fran White of Porky Whites continued: “The importance of having choice for consumers within retail cannot be overstated. Consumers should have the freedom to choose between own label and branded products based on their preferences, needs, and budget and the availability of choice will ultimately benefit consumers and drive innovation in the market.  But with the gap growing so wide on price between own label and branded this is just driving an even larger wedge and force consumers away from our products purely based on price alone. Ultimately this will see the demise of more and more UK SMEs within our industry.”

On approaching Defra about when industry could expect the consultation results Meat Management was told by a spokesperson: “We recognise the challenges that pig farmers and businesses are facing with increased input costs, and recently held a consultation on supply chain arrangements in the pork sector.

“A Summary of Responses, which will outline the main findings and conclusions from the consultation, will be published soon.”

BMPA’s CEO, Nick Allen told Meat Management: “We’ve been told to expect the Government response to issues raised in the recent consultation imminently, however no publication date has been set as yet. 

“Any solutions proposed by Government will require a detailed and well thought through plan that takes into account the complexity of the whole pork supply chain if they’re to avoid unintended consequences. BMPA’s recent report sets out our concerns and illustrates just how complicated the pork supply chain is. 

“As processors we have a unique perspective on how the market operates and can speak with some authority on the various forces and commercial influences that shape the pork market.

“We think this warrants a more comprehensive treatment than the current consultation allows for, so we’re asking Defra to consult with us separately and in more detail so we can help build the complete picture that will allow them to make fully informed decisions.”

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