Call for ombudsman to save pig sector

The government is being urged to set a date for the launch of a supermarket ombudsman as part of a package of measures to help the beleaguered pig industry.

NFU Scotland said it was working with the Scottish government and the pig industry to write to DEFRA to demand a timetable outlining the introduction of a retailer adjudicator.

The letter is part of a series of steps the union is taking to ease the pressure on British pig producers, who are struggling in the face of poor retailer prices, cheap imports and high input costs.

In addition to an update on a supermarket watchdog to regulate the relationship between retailers and producers, NFUS said it would monitor retailers’ commitment to stocking British pork on their shelves.

Other measures would include talking to the Scottish government to ensure the pig sector was prioritised for future rural development funding and working with other industry organisations to gain a better understanding of the supply chain.

John Picken, NFUS vice president, said retailers had to improve their stocking of British pork products if pig producers were to have any chance of survival.

“The pig sector requires industry, government and levy boards to work collectively,” he said.

“This is not a call for an aid package, but is about developing measures to ensure the markets work fairly and in a way that ensures business can move forward.

“We believe this package provides a balance – it recognises that everyone has a responsibility to ensure the market works well, ensures producers have the best information possible and offers suitable risk management options to have to hand.”

NFUS measures being discussed with the Scottish government and other industry organisations:

• Writing formally to the UK government asking them to set out a timetable for a supermarket adjudicator

• Working together to ensure those at the top of the supply chain recognise the enormous pressure at farm level in the pig sector

• Prioritisation of the pig sector for a future round of rural development funding

• Development of an independent cost tracker to understand the volatility of input costs to farmers

• Examining mechanisms to help manage risk and volatility, including potential use of future markets and hedging

• Pushing for a move to less frequent risk-based Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) scheme inspections, in line with new European legislation

• NFUS continuing to monitor the retailers’ commitment to pork on their shelves

Pigs are still worth it