Farming: Problems mounting for the pig industry supply chain

While the newly announced government-backed scrutiny of contracts for pigmeat producers could help bring a long term solution to issues around transparency and fairness across the pig supply chain, time is not on the industry’s side.

Cabinet Minister Mairi Gougeon
Cabinet Minister Mairi Gougeon

The UK Government and the devolved administration in Scotland and Wales have announced a consultation which will look at the relationships between the various parties in the supply chain for pigmeat and pork, while also considering ways of improving the relationship between the links of the chain.

The consultation follows the recent challenges and financial pressures experienced by the sector due to rising costs and labour shortages - which have raised questions about the functioning of the supply chain. It will seek views on issues such as transparency, price reporting, clarity of contractual terms and conditions and market consolidation.

The move was welcomed by NFU Scotland’s pigs working group chair Jamie Wyllie, who said the ongoing crisis for producers had exposed the fact that the current supply chain model - including the current pricing mechanisms - was broken and needed addressing.

“However, the reality is that the outcomes from this consultation and delivery of any recommendations will take time - and that is something that many who are currently producing pigs simply do not have,” said Wyllie.

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He said that unless there was a further immediate and significant increases in prices from some major retailers and a greater commitment to home-produced pigmeat, then producers would continue to lose money and leave the sector altogether.

“At a time when food security is of growing concern this must not be allowed to happen,” added Wyllie who urged all pig producers to answer the survey associated with the consultation before it closed on October 7.

Scottish Government’s Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mairi Gougeon said that the Covid-19 pandemic and the continued lack of available skilled labour had had a disproportionate impact on the pig sector.

“It is imperative that we understand the current supply arrangements within the sector and explore the nature of the relationships between the various parties in the supply chain.”

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She said she hoped that the consultation resulted in proposals for a more consistent approach across the pig supply chain with a greater emphasis on fairness.

Following reports of wild boar attacking sheep in the Highlands, NFUS vice-president, Robin Traquair told the BBC that the increasing numbers of feral pigs in areas across the country posed a threat to the national herd as they could spread African Swine Fever (ASF) and other diseases to commercial pigs, as had happened on the continent.

He said that while the immediate risk was mange, worms and parasites, wild boar had been widely implicated in the spread of ASF, with the disease now present in much of the European mainland.

"If ASF comes into this country and gets into the wild boar herd then it's at a massive risk of finishing the industry off."

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