Friday, December 15, 2017

Pig industry leaders fight to protect UK welfare standards

July 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Livestock

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High welfare standards must not be compromised in pursuit of new trade deals and a post-Brexit cheap food agenda, the National Pig Association has warned.

With Brexit talks starting between the UK and European Union last month, the NPA is calling for steps to protect pig producers and consumers – including equivalent standards for meat imports and, if necessary, tariffs and quotas where standards fall short.

The UK pig industry exported more than 206,000 tonnes of pigmeat, worth £252million, in 2017, nearly 60% of which went to or via the EU.  The association wants strict labelling laws put in place to provide clarity for consumers over differences in production standards.

Sensible

NPA chairman and pig producer Richard Lister said: “A free trade deal with the EU is absolutely vital for the pig sector.” He added: “If we leave without a trade deal, sensible transitional arrangements must be put in place.”

Tariffs on pork exports of 45p/kg on carcases or 131p/kg for processed hams, for example, would cripple export trade, slash profitability and export production overseas – particularly if equivalent tariffs were not levied on imports into the UK.

An even greater concern for the NPA is the prospect of new trade deals that would expose UK consumers and producers to cheaper pork imports from the likes of the US, Canada and Brazil, where health and welfare standards are often considerably lower than ours.

Mr Lister added: “The recent Brazilian meat scandal has highlighted the inherent dangers in any potential new trade deals. We don’t want imported meat produced to lower hygiene, welfare and traceability standards posing a threat to consumers and undercutting UK producers.”

‘No intention’

Defra secretary Michael Gove has said he has no intention of allowing UK standards to be compromised in future trade deals. But WTO rules – as they stand – make it difficult to include welfare standards as a condition of trade.

Mr Lister said: “We are proud of our high animal welfare standards in the UK. We want future trade deals to specify equivalent standards when it comes to meat imports. If that is not possible, pork must be granted protected status, with tariffs and quotas on lower standard imports.”

The NPA’s other major concern is the availability of EU labour after we leave the EU. Mr Lister said: “Any talk of trade deals will be rendered almost irrelevant if we lose access to the EU labour force. There would simply not be a British pig industry as we know it today.”

He continued: “A survey of our members has highlighted the extent to which we rely on permanent, skilled and unskilled EU labour (by ‘unskilled’ we mean not educated to degree level), rather than short-term seasonal workers.”

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