Future trade deals with the US must not allow imports of pork that would fail to meet British production standards, the National Pig Association (NPA) has warned.
The organisation voiced its concerns as the battle for the Conservative Party leadership continued in the midst of US president Donald Trump’s state visit.
Mr Trump told outgoing prime minister Theresa May that he was expecting a “very, very substantial trade deal” post-Brexit, but “everything is on the table”.
That rang alarm bells at the NPA, which said the next prime minister must not open the doors to pork that would be illegal to produce in the UK.
The NPA fears the US will push for an end to restrictions imposed by the EU that ban pork imports on the grounds of health or welfare concerns.
“The US government and pork industry have made it clear they want ‘the elimination of these impediments’ under a US-UK deal,” the NPA said.
But the organisation pointed out there were vast differences between the US and UK in terms of how pigs are kept.
“Sow stalls, banned in the UK 20 years ago, are still widely used in the US,” the NPA stressed.
“Furthermore, the huge strides made by the UK pig industry to reduce antibiotics use in recent years have not been matched in the US, where usage remains high,” it added.
The NPA cited comments made by Nick Giordano, of the US National Pork Producers Council in an interview with Pig World magazine.
Mr Giordano outlined some of the US pig sector’s key demands, which include:
- Ending tariff rate quotas, allowing imports of pork produced using ractopamine – a muscle-boosting feed additive banned in many countries
- Dropping the requirement for trichinae (parasitic roundworm) tests or freezing
- Permitting “pathogen reduction treatments” such as chlorine washing or meat dosed with antimicrobials
- Allowing pork imports from USDA-approved plants without equivocation
Voicing her concerns, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “When push comes to shove, it might be tempting for the next prime minister to make concessions on agriculture to get a deal through in order to benefit other sectors of the UK economy.
“But this would be disastrous for UK pork producers and consumers.”
Dr Davies added: “While there has been a lot of focus on chlorine-washed chicken and hormone beef, there is also a huge gap in standards between the UK and US pig sectors – from the use of ractopamine to the continued use of sow stalls and much higher use of antibiotics in the US.
“As a result, US pork is much cheaper to produce. Allowing product made using methods banned in the UK into the country would be a betrayal of UK pig producers and the high standards of production they are proud to adhere to. It would also be hugely unpopular with consumers.”
UK pig prices rise
As the political wrangling deepens, there are positive signs that British pig prices are starting to rise more quickly, according to the AHDB.
The EU-spec SPP reached 146.47p/kg in the week ending 1 June – a 1.13p increase on the previous seven days.
The EU-spec APP increased by 1.07p to reach 148.81p/kg by 25 May.
Analysts have suggested that global pig prices are moving upward to fill the void in supply caused by China’s African swine fever outbreak.
The UK price has been slower to pick up because less pigmeat is traded on spot markets here, and it is therefore slower to react.
The lower price is also due to buyers who stockpiled large quantities of pigmeat earlier this year as part of a contingency plan for a no-deal Brexit.