Retailers trying to walk away from British pork

UK - Spot price for pigs is nine pence down on last year and demand is uncannily flat. The Deadweight Average Pig Price looks likely to follow it downwards over the next few weeks - unless action is taken now.
calendar icon 24 February 2006
clock icon 5 minute read

National Pig Association

NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & Whitehall, and with processors, supermarkets & caterers - fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

National Pig Association is concerned that several retailers are making a concerted effort to walk away from British pork. Chairman Stewart Houston has cleared his diary for next week and will begin a round of meetings with retailers and processors.

PorkWatch survey bought forward

The last PorkWatch survey returned reasonable results. But given the underlying trend that has emerged in the past two weeks, it has been decided - as an emergency measure - to pull the next PorkWatch survey forward.

This has never been done before and is an indication of how seriously the pig industry views the situation.

It is clear to pig producers that given the current shortage of British pork, the price should be rising. Some are calling for a return to militancy.

The fact that the price is going in the opposite direction and that there is no attempt by processors to buy beyond contract numbers, indicates that some retailers are pressing processors to use cheap imports as a weapon to peg the price.

35 a pig less

“We’ve been here before,“ said one marketeer today. The difference in spot price this week and during the same week last year is worth 35 a pig and could seriously damage the industry’s recovery.

“Every time we take our foot off the pedal with some retailers, they slip back,“ said an exasperated Stewart Houston. He intends to find out today and in meetings next week, which retailers and processors are using lower-standard imports as a weapon to drive down the British premium.

There is particular concern among producers who are supplying pigs for retailers’ quality pork ranges, because a drop in the standard price will also affect premium prices. Outdoor producers who finish on straw are locked into extra production costs of at least three pence a kilo and they in particular cannot afford to see their premiums eroded by a lower average price.

'Smells fishy' - Traffic Lights

"Given consumers’ preference for British pork and the fact that it is in short supply, we should be seeing some volatility in the spot market, but it is absolutely flat,“ said a Traffic Lights spokesman last night. “It smells fishy.“

Talk of a cut-back in the Scottish kill has done nothing to ease producers' fears.

Dioxin-scare pork too cheap to ignore

Following the recent dioxin scare on the continent which closed several hundred farms, it is feared pork from Holland that is unacceptable to some other countries may be proving too cheap for British retailers to ignore.

NPA Producer Group vice-chairman Simon Watchorn reports larger amounts than usual turning up at Smithfield.

Mick Sloyan, chief executive of the British Pig Executive, said this morning, "I do not have any statistics but it does not surprise me that more meat from Holland has turned up on Smithfield.

"A consequence of the dioxin issue was the Netherlands lost its access to the Korean market and may have diverted product to the United Kingdom." The authorities in the Netherlands and Belgium claim to have traced and closed off supplies of the contaminated meat.

Therefore, says Mick Sloyan, unless the meat coming into Britain is frozen it has probably been subjected to adequate controls.

NPA plans new welfare offensive

Nottinghamshire producer Ian Hoyland has urged the NPA to work closer with the welfare lobby to expose supermarket double standards.

This process has now started. NPA regional manager Ian Campbell had a productive meeting with Compassion in World Farming chief executive Philip Lymbery this week.

Compassion in World Farming has broken its vegetarian links and is focused on genuine farm welfare issues.

"It wants good welfare - fit, healthy and happy animals - and that is not something we would take issue with," said Ian Campbell. "It is also keen, like us, to progress honest labelling."

Source: the National Pig Association - 24th February 2006

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