Government intervenes as pig sector crisis threatens to wipe out local farmers

The Government has stepped into the costs crisis that some fear has the potential to wipe out the pig farming sector across the region and the UK within months.

On the final day of The Great Yorkshire Show last week, the farming minister Victoria Prentis attended to launch officially a review into the pig sector in the hope that farmers, most of whom operate as small and independent businesses, can get a better deal.

The review has been brought in under The Agriculture Act 2020, which, introduced the ‘Fair Dealings Powers’ designed to address unfair practice, and enabling government to introduce regulations to oversee the relationship between producers and buyers where necessary.

It will run until October 7 and invites views from pig farmers, abattoirs, processors, retailers, marketing groups and all stakeholders involved in the pig supply chain across the country.

On the final day of The Great Yorkshire Show last week, the farming minister Victoria Prentis attended to launch officially a review into the pig sector in the hope that farmers, most of whom operate as small and independent businesses, can get a better deal. She is pictured with Charles Mills, show director.

There are a series of questions ranging from how many pigs they rear or process, what type of contracts they have, whether they think contracts should be made to be written and structured, are premiums and deductions clear and is there transparency in price reporting?

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Speaking to Country Week, Ms Prentice, Minister for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “We took powers under the agriculture act to review and intervene where necessary where supply chains are not working.

“We first did it in the dairy sector as soon as I became farming minister but got delayed because of Covid but we will be regulating before the end of the year in the dairy sector.

“I hope the pig review will be much quicker and we have dairy to use as a blueprint. We have done a great deal of work within the last year with the NFU and others into what is happening in the pig supply chain.”

Ms Prentis said she was aware of where profits were being made and they didn’t lie with producers such as farmers.

She added that the answers to the survey would emphasise this and give more details as to where change needs to be made.

“In pig farming this is needed. They are struggling with very high input costs as well as historic problems, most recently the backlog of pigs on farms. We are dealing with each of these issues, I really think that this consultation will give us the information that we need in order to take action.”

The National Pig Association welcomed the review but has also appealed to Defra to include retailers within the consultation process as they have the power to determine the processing element, which in turn affects the production.

Chief Executive Zoe Davies, described the past year for the pig sector as ‘‘horrific’’, with the industry now facing a significant contraction.

She said: “This is something that we fed back to Defra because the retailers set the environment in which the processors work. If that environment is bad, and it’s very competitive and cut-throat, we quite often will see the processors behaving a certain way towards their pig producers.

“So we need to ensure retailers are part of that discussion and that they are as responsible as the rest of the supply chain when it comes to transparency and fair play.”