NPA airs Brexit concerns to Defra

The National Pig Association (NPA) has urged Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom to ensure pig farmers get a fair Brexit deal. 

The association has written to Leadsom to set out its Brexit priorities and seek reassurances on the big issues for the sector, such as the potential threat to UK production posed by cheap, lower-welfare imports.

It warned that a post-Brexit cheap food agenda must not be allowed to take priority over the need for the UK to build its self-sufficiency in food.

Top of the NPA’s list of concerns is trade. While it said it would welcome opportunities to further build UK export markets, it has warned of the potential pitfalls associated with freer trade.

In the letter it explained that if EU tariffs, which currently add £45 per 100kg to the cost of imports of pig carcases, were significantly reduced in new trade deals, this could open the doors to large volumes of lower-standard, imported pigmeat.

Lizzie Wilson, NPA policy services manager, said: “Countries like the US, Canada and Brazil are able to produce pigmeat at a much lower cost because they have lower animal welfare and environmental standards.

“We are absolutely adamant that the government must not put a desire for cheap food ahead of the need to shore up the UK’s self-sufficiency in food, which has already declined alarmingly over the last few decades.

“We do not want to see UK consumers exposed to pigmeat produced to lower standards and we certainly do not want our producers to face unfair import competition.”

The NPA urged equivalent standards of production, including animal welfare, to be negotiated into any new trade agreements and, if necessary, for UK pigmeat to be granted protected status to control the volume of tariff-free imports allowed into the UK.

It is also calling for new post-Brexit agricultural policies to support pig farmers in delivering public goods, such as reducing antibiotic usage by improving animal health.

Wilson added: “We would like to see grant funding and some sort of tax relief available to help with reinvestment in new buildings, equipment and infrastructure.”

Other key messages to the government included: ensuring the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) dedicates the same resource and effort into keeping animal disease out as extending export markets, as ultimately the two are intrinsically linked; ensuring EU citizens wanting to work in the UK pig sector are not prevented from doing so because of complicated application processes or delays to visa processing; strengthening checks at major ports and increasing penalties for illegally imported products; and ensuring the pig sector is included in any discussions on future welfare standards.

“The UK pig industry is worth £1.2bn at the farmgate and £7.5bn in total,” added Wilson. “It is a vital sector of the UK economy, with good stories to tell in terms of growing export volumes and animal welfare standards.

“We welcome steps taken so far by Defra to include NPA in preliminary talks and look forward to this relationship continuing as we continue to make the case for a fair Brexit deal for the pig industry.”

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