UK pork supply chain ‘broken’ according to NPA chairman

UK pork supply chain ‘broken’ according to NPA chairman

The National Pig Association (NPA) has unveiled a strategy for a “fairer, more transparent and, ultimately, more sustainable” pork supply chain, in response to Defra’s consultation on contractual practice within the UK pig sector.

The NPA has called on the government to introduce “essential reforms across the pork supply chain to avert the collapse of the industry and protect the UK’s food security.”

In its submitted response, the association suggested the introduction of legislation to underpin new pig contracts that will allow producers, marketing groups and pork processers to negotiate terms that work for all parties, including ensuring “a fair price” for producers.

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

The Association’s call for action comes amid a “catastrophic” 18 months for the industry in which producers have collectively recorded losses of more than £600 million.

According to the NPA, its member feedback has revealed that there is a “clear acknowledgement from producers and the allied industry that the current contractual system does not function properly and that there is a disproportionate spread of risk through the supply chain that must be addressed.”

It said that the response “stressed” that change is needed throughout the wider supply chain, including the retail sector, not just between producers and processors.

Under threat

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer said: “It has become obvious to all involved that the supply chain, as it stands, is broken. Contracts, where they exist, have proved to be not worth the paper they are written on for many, and those producers have been left powerless as their pigs have been rolled week after week.

“Allied with other factors such as Brexit-related labour shortages and soaring feed and energy costs, driven by the war in Ukraine, the situation has left the pig sector hugely damaged to the extent that our capacity to produce pork in this country is now under threat.”

He concluded: “We believe the measures that we and others who have responded are calling for will, if implemented, form the basis of a stronger, more coherent supply chain where all parts can thrive.

“But the government must act decisively and quickly before it is too late for the pig sector, and in order to fulfil its stated aims of reinforcing the UK’s food security.”

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