What next for pig supply chain fairness?

Defra’s review into pig contracts found that “the system is broken and needs to be fixed”, farming minister Mark Spencer told the Pigs Tomorrow 2023 conference in Leicestershire this week.

And among the steps needed to create a fairer supply chain were fairer written contracts, better data transparency, and more stakeholder engagement, he added.

See also: High costs and ASF lead to less pigs forecast globally in 2023

Mr Spencer said written contracts need to be created and it is crucial to ensure that when contracts are signed, they are adhered to.

“This is a long-term solution, not a quick fix,” he added.

Defra set out a list of next steps following the findings from the consultation:

  • Develop the regulations for contracts
  • Share findings from the review with the Competitions and Markets Authority
  • Ensure written agreements are used between all producers and their buyers
  • Consult with industry to determine if any other aspects should be mandated
  • Create legislation that works across the whole of the UK
  • Improve availability of supply chain data, such as prices and throughputs

John Powell, head of agricultural sectors at Defra, said a 12-month adjustment period would be needed to implement new contracts.

He added that, although no set dates had been announced yet, the process is due to start shortly.

“In order to address these problems, it will mean compromises on both sides of the supply chain,” he added.

Support for pork sector

Defra also outlined some of the work that it has carried out already to help the pork sector.

This included the private storage aid scheme and slaughter incentive scheme, up to 800 temporary visas for butchers, support for UK carbon dioxide production, and removing 25% tariffs on US maize to reduce input costs.

Water management grants, slurry infrastructure grants and funding for equipment through the farming equipment technology fund have also been made available by Defra for producers.

National Pig Association chairman Rob Mutimer said: “I think our productivity both in the pig sector and in agriculture in general in Europe has been poor over the past 20 years and I think these grants are absolutely essential in us getting some sort of increase in productivity and on a sustainable level.”

Mr Mutimer added that he welcomes the grant schemes and thinks government should put more money into grants in general than flat-rate area payment schemes.

A capital grant fund to support small abattoirs as part of the small abattoirs scheme is due to be announced later this year.