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2. Planning for the future

Although UK pig prices have been pegged back in recent months, better retail demand in recent weeks appears to have stabilised the market. DEFRA recently launched a British Food & Farming Plan to develop a long term strategy for the home industry. Activity by NGOs continues to frustrate plans for much needed investment in the modernisation of the UK pig production infrastructure.

The strength of the £ has played a major part in holding down domestic pig prices in recent months but the final arrival of summer seems to have brought a bit of life back to the UK pig market more recently. The increased availability of pigs for slaughter has also lead to higher UK pig meat production this year – in May both were 5% up on the 2014 level.

 New plan for British farming

New plan for British food and farming

As promised in their recent election manifesto, the government has just launched an ‘industry led 25 year plan’ to develop the British food and farming industries, entitled 'The Great British Food and Farming Plan'. DEFRA will work with industry stakeholders in seven key areas:

  • Strengthening the British brand to ensure our quality produce is celebrated both at home and abroad.
  • Increasing exports to ensure British products are enjoyed by even more countries across the world.
  • Breaking down barriers to trade that will enable budding food entrepreneurs to unleash their full potential and access new markets.
  • Increasing procurement of British produce including in schools and hospitals.
  • Attracting investment into the industry.
  • Boosting skills and apprenticeships to ensure the industry has the confidence and capacity to meet the growing demand for British produce.
  • Increasing productivity through innovation, research and development and sharing data.

Modernising the pig industry

A strategy to secure the future of British farming would logically include adoption of the latest technology to shore up the industry against global competitors. However, recent efforts to modernise the infrastructure of UK pig production continue to meet strident opposition from an alliance of NGOs and celebrity ambassadors.

 Foston development – planning application turned down

The planned development of a modern pig production unit in Foston in Derbyshire, including high welfare facilities such as ‘freedom farrowing’ for sows and the latest environmental technology – including an anaerobic digester to provide the energy for a local prison – has been successfully opposed by a coalition of NGOs over a period of four years. The campaigning groups objecting to the development have included the Soil Association, VIVA and 'Farms Not Factories'.

More recently a planned development in Newtownabbey, north of Belfast, attracted similar attention from the campaign groups. The planned refurbishment of Halls Pig Farm will include the latest ‘state of the art’ technology and aim to house 30,000 animals, according to Pig Progress magazine. The list of celebrities, who have lined up to oppose the development include actors Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove and Queen guitarist, Brian May, as reported in the Newtownabbey Times and Belfast Telegraph.