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Despite taking 20 years, a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) was recently agreed.

The agreement in principle is not legally binding but summarises the results of negotiations, however, the trade agreement still needs to be converted into legal text and ratified by EU member states as well as the European Parliament.

Nevertheless, it is significant enough for the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker to call it a “historical moment”. In this article, we look at the implications of this trade deal on EU agricultural trade and what it could mean for the UK.

For pig meat, Mercosur will have access to a 25,000 tonne TRQ (tariff-free-quotas), which will be equally divided in to six annual instalments. The in-quota tariff will be €83 per tonne, which is considerably lower than full MFN tariffs and most in-quota TRQ tariffs at present.

The meat eligible for import under this TRQ must be from ractopamine-free pigs.

The amount of pig meat currently imported into the EU from Mercosur is quite small (averaging around 37 tonnes between 2014 and 2018). Although the negotiated Mercosur TRQ is much larger than this, the overall quantity of the TRQ is a mere fraction of the amount of pork the EU produces, consumes and exports.

A spokesman for AHDB said: “Tariffs on EU pig meat exports to Mercosur will be eliminated. Between 2014 and 2018, EU pig meat exports (including offal) have averaged around 8,500 tonnes. Only around half of this is fresh/frozen pork, with processed products and offal also exported. It is not yet clear whether all pig meat products will be liberalised.”

The EU-Mercosur trade deal will only apply to the UK if it a member of the EU. Given the expected timeline for the deal to come into force, it is unlikely that the EU-Mercosur trade deal will apply to the UK (unless the UK decides to remain part of the EU).

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The Government has estimated that an African swine fever (ASF) outbreak could cost the UK pig industry £85 million.

David Rutley, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at Defra, said the Government has estimated that a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ outbreak could cost the UK up to £90m at 2019 prices. This includes costs to the industry of up to £85m, reflecting the lost value of animals from culling, movement bans and trade restrictions, as well as costs of up to £5m for the Government for disease control activities.

While this estimate represents an ‘informed assessment’ of the potential impact of an outbreak, the true cost will depend on a number of factors, including geographic location, the husbandry system, epidemiology of the outbreak and whether wildlife was involved, he added. The NPA stressed that it could be even higher, particularly when lost export markets are factored in.

Mr Rutley was responding to a series of questions about ASF posed by Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers, who raised the issue following a meeting with NPA members at the Lincolnshire Show.

Border controls

The issue of UK border controls has taken on added significance since the discovery of ASF DNA in illegally imported meat seized by port authorities in Northern Ireland.

Asked what additional resource has been allocated to the UK border force, Mr Rutley said Defra was working with Border Force to focus communications on passengers travelling through ports and airports when returning to the UK from the EU and Asia.

“We are in the process of developing a set of communications that will be distributed across UK ports and airports informing people of the disease risk and asking that they do not bring personal pork imports into the UK. These messages will be communicated through a combination of posters, leaflets, and social media” he said.

Defra is currently working with UK Border Force to improve intelligence sharing and targeting, he added. The Department and the Animal and Plant Health Agency routinely provide UK Border Force with information and risk assessments on countries where there is a heightened risk of animal diseases such as African swine fever.

Raising awareness

Mr Rutley also outlined the steps Defra is taking to inform people entering the UK of the dangers of bringing in meat from areas affected by ASF.

He said Defra was working with the devolved administrations, the pig industry and veterinary bodies on a communications campaign to raise awareness of the risks of the introduction of ASF to the UK and what can be done to reduce the risk of entry into the UK pig herd or feral wild boar populations.

“Messaging has targeted key audiences including transport operators, tourists to specific regions, and other people returning from affected regions. Additionally, we have been speaking to both professional and backyard pig keepers about the dangers and risk of ASF, to encourage best practice and ensure disease prevention,” he said.

“We have also run a targeted communication campaign to raise awareness of the particular risks of bringing pork products into the UK from affected areas, including the emphasis on the importance of safely disposing of any unwanted pork products.”

NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker said he was pleased to see the ASF threat being discussed more frequently in Parliament. “We note that the Government estimates that an ASF outbreak could cost the industry £85m. We believe the real cost could be much higher, especially when the loss of pork exports, worth nearly £500 million in 2018, is taken into account.”

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The Farm Safety Foundation has revealed that 39 people have lost their lives on farms this year, despite awareness of farm safety being at an all-time high.

According to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), of those killed, 32 were agricultural workers and seven were members of the public, including two children.

This week’s Farm Safety Week, an initiative led by the Farm Safety Foundation and supported by the Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health & Safety Authority, Ireland, aims to reduce the number of accidents which continue to give farming the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK & Ireland

In the wake of two tragic farm incidents last week involving children, the Farm Safety Foundation is urging the whole farming community to make a real change this Farm Safety Week.

Despite increased awareness of the issue (68% of farmers have awareness of Farm Safety Week), farming still has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, around 18 times as high as the all industry rate, accounting for more than 22% of all workplace fatalities.

Now in its seventh year, Farm Safety Week brings together five countries over five days with one clear goal – to inspire farmers to look after their physical and mental wellbeing and reduce the number of life-changing and life-ending accidents on our farms.

In a year when it has been revealed that, despite there being seven times more workers employed in the construction industry than agriculture, forestry and fishing, you are actually seven times more likely to be killed on a farm than on a construction site.

Awareness of farm safety is at an all-time high with 67% of all farmers aware of Farm Safety Week but, in the past year, 32 farm workers lost their lives in the workplace so awareness may be one thing – the time has now come for action.

This year’s campaign brings the focus back to farmers, farm workers and those living and working in rural communities and will deliver real stories, inspiration and messages directly to them to drive this change.

Andrew Turner, head of agriculture at the Health & Safety Executive, said: “Agriculture is a critical part of our economy, but every year we have to report that agriculture has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK. This is made even more tragic by the fact that the deaths and injuries are avoidable. The precautions to prevent people being killed and maimed on farms are well known and can be easily applied.”

Throughout this year’s campaign, the Farm Safety Foundation will demonstrate how safety innovations and improved inspection and maintenance can build business resilience, highlighting organisations helping build personal resilience and introduce some incredible farmers that have been influenced by circumstances, stories or personal experiences to make a real change.

Stephanie Berkeley, who manages the Farm Safety Foundation, said: “Two children lost their lives last week in incidents involving farm vehicles so isn’t it time to sit up, take note and take action?

“Farming, as an industry, is vital to the UK economy – it is the bedrock of our food and drink industry. On a farm, as with any business, the number one resource is the people so why do farmers still give more attention to their livestock, crops and machinery than to themselves and their own wellbeing?”

For more information on Farm Safety Week visit www.yellowwellies.org or follow @yellowwelliesUK on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek

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Elanco Animal Health has announced a new global research and development collaboration with AgBiome, to develop nutritional health products for pigs.

The collaboration will leverage AgBiome’s proprietary strain identification system and provide Elanco access to AgBiome’s extensive and growing collection of bacteria, viral and fungal strains. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Elanco will combine AgBiome’s success in crop science with its expertise in animal health to bring innovative new solutions. This agreement furthers Elanco’s targeted, value-generating IPP strategy (innovation, portfolio and productivity).

Aaron Schacht, Elanco’s executive vice president of innovation, regulatory and business development, said: “AgBiome’s vast strain library and unique knowledge and methods for strain identification and development are particularly interesting to Elanco.

“Identifying and developing new products and tools to help manage the animal’s microbiome, control infections, and reduce gut inflammation, while decreasing the need for medically important antibiotics is a top priority for Elanco.”

Eric Ward, co-CEO of AgBiome, added: “We are excited to be creating novel products for animal nutrition using the microbial technology and data science tools in our Genesis platform.”

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Malaysia’s Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) has confiscated three tonnes of pork and meat products, as part of measures to prevent the spread of African swine fever in the country.

The New Straits Times reported that of the total, about 1.16 tonnes of pig products such as pork meat, ham, sausage and pork skin were seized at Kota Kinabalu International airport.

These consisted of imported products from China (152 cases), the Philippines (47), Singapore (32) and Korea (29).

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin said Malaysia was free of the disease and that the virus would not spread to humans.

“As a preventive measure, DVS has issued letters on banning pig imports from China, since November 12, 2018; Poland and Belgium since January 17, 2019; Thailand and Vietnam since January 23, 2019; and Cambodia since April 4, 219.  In Malaysia, pig farming is a RM3.6 billion industry – the country produces 213,000 metric tonnes of pork.”

As for other preventive measures, the department will also increase luggage inspections at entry points, especially of passengers from countries with ASF outbreaks.

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This week’s Slaughter Pig Marketing Summary, from Thames Valley Cambac, reported that industrial action at one major caused some disruption, and the subsequent rolling boosted supplies into a pretty flat market.

Demand still languished but supplies generally improved, with average weights also up a touch. All the majors stood on with their contract contributions, but contract prices improved as the SPP continued to rise, adding another 0.78p at 151.64p.

The fresh meat market was little changed – buoyed by some barbecue trade, but steadied by lack of sales of other cuts. The cull sow market took a major knock as the exporters saw a large fall in their continental markets. In Europe, the German market fell six euro cents, following the news that it had lost the ability to export to the Philippines due the discovery of 250kgs of Polish meat in a consignment sent in June.

The euro was little changed and ended the week up 0.08p at 89.78p. Finally, the worrying news that some meat and meat products seized by officials on the border of Eire and Northern Ireland in June this year has tested positive for ASF. This is a stark reminder of how ASF can remain active in meat and meat products, and transported around the world by naive people.

It is hoped that the representations by the NPA and others to MP’s and Border Control officials gets the message across of the need for stricter controls at all points of entry into this country.

The Weaner Marketing Summary, for week commencing July 7, reported that demand was weak again with some fatteners viewing yard space as more valuable for storage as harvest time approaches than fattening pigs in.

Supplies continued to outweigh demand, with little interest outside contract commitments. The prices announced by the AHDB saw no quote given for a 30kg store pig, and the weighted average for a 7kg weaner rise by 17p to £37.83p.

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The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed the quick response from government vets and inspectors who detected traces of African Swine Fever in animal products brought into Northern Ireland airports in passenger luggage.

According to a statement released by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) this week, 300 kg ofillegal meat and dairy products, detected in passenger luggage, was seized by DAERA portal officials at Northern Ireland’s airports in June alone. Traces of African Swine Fever were detected in samples of the seized products after being sent to the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) for testing.

BVA president Simon Doherty said: “It’s very encouraging to see that government vets and inspectors are united in their vigilance to prevent the incursion of this deadly disease. We are fortunate in Northern Ireland to have a surveillance facility like AFBI that can carry out quick and effective testing and continuous monitoring for disease risks.

“African Swine Fever poses a significant and growing threat to animal welfare and agriculture throughout all regions of the UK, so we need to continue to make every effort to curb its spread and raise public awareness of the risks of bringing animal products that may be carrying the disease into the country. The seizure of 300 kg of illegally imported products in June alone really underlines the scale of this important task ahead.”

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Pig World | Pig Industry News.. by Peter Crichton - 4d ago

Although the SPP continues its steady upward progress, putting on a further .78p to stand at 151.64p, unfortunately trading values on the other side of the English Channel have eased with the latest German producer price back by six euro cents to €1.77, but this is worth 159p dead weight in our money which is still 7.36p higher than our SPP is at present.

Weekly contribution prices have in the main remained at similar levels, with most between 143p and 150p but still not fully reflecting spot prices which have in the main been in or around 150p/kg.

The main problem seems to centre around slack demand at the retail end of the sector rather than too many pigs with the larger abattoirs saying if they had better demand they could easily have slaughtered more pigs. Lamb and beef farmers also seem to be suffering from the same reduction in consumption levels of most red meats.

The AHDB and the industry as a whole need to re-promote pig meat to try and stimulate better demand as we cannot rely on the ASF pig shortage in China and the Far East to come to our rescue, especially as reports have been received that the missing ASF pigs can to some extent be replaced by chickens at relatively short notice.

As a result of slightly slower demand for UK pig meat, especially in the RSPCA Assured sector, pig space remains tight on breeding and rearing units at a time when more numbers are also coming forward.

Cull sow values have also unfortunately taken a significant downward step with export quotes generally 5p down on the week before with the result that despite an improvement in the value of the euro which traded today worth 89.87 compared with 89.76p a week ago, most export prices for cull sows have been in and around 100p, which is still however much higher than they were three months ago.

As mentioned above, it has been difficult to find space for non-contract weaners but the latest AHDB 7kg average has moved up by 17p to £37.83 but there were insufficient numbers for a 30kg average to be announced. However, most are trading around £15 above the value of their 7kg counterparts.

Feed prices are however painting a slightly better picture with ex farm UK feed wheat averaging £140.70/t, down by £5 on the previous week and feed wheat futures for September are quoted at £145/t with barley at £131/t.

Protein values are holding at generally similar levels with Hipro soya traded at £305/t for August-October and £314/t for November-April ‘20.

And finally, more concerns on the disease front with recent reports that meat products imported from Asia to Northern Ireland have traces of African Swine Fever, which is wreaking havoc throughout much of the Far East and although veterinary sources are saying that this discovery does not pose a significant threat to our animal health status, it does underline the need for personal imports of meat as well as commercial shipments to be subject to rigorous testing because if ASF or any other notifiable diseases hit these shores it would be a case of the last one leaving turning out the lights!

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UK clean pig slaughter in June was around 1% lower than the same month in 2018 at 823,800 head, new figures reveal. However, as there was one fewer weekday in the month this year, the rate of slaughter is likely to have been higher.

Looking at the UK regions individually, clean pig slaughter in June recorded the following year-on-year trends:

  • England & Wales: 663,000 head (-1%);
  • Scotland: 28,000 head (+6%); and
  • Northern Ireland: 133,000 head (no change).

Slaughter during quarter two, therefore, totalled 2.63 million head, slightly higher than last year.

AHDB said this is similar to its April forecast (2.59 million head). Difficulties with herd performance last year were expected to limit slaughter numbers this spring. Pigs have also been taken to heavier weights, delaying some marketing.

For the first half of the year, the UK clean pig kill stands at 5.26 million head, virtually the same as in 2018.

Finished pig carcase weights for June averaged 83.9kg, over 1kg heavier than in June 2018. Though, weights still recorded a seasonal decline compared to May.

There was a 13% annual decline in the number of adult sows and boars slaughtered in June, to 18,200 head. This meant the quarterly figure stood at 58,700 head (-10%). Adult pig slaughter was expected to be lower this year, with a high cull rate in 2018 leading to a younger herd. However, the decline is a little larger than we forecast, perhaps reflecting producer optimism around rising pig prices.

AHDB said: “Altogether, pig meat production in the month totalled 71,900 tonnes, virtually the same as a year earlier. The half-year figure comes to 462,800 tonnes, a slight increase in 2018 (+1%).”

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Another case of swine dysentery has been confirmed on a pig farm in North Yorkshire, continuing the spate of recent cases.

The outbreak, which was identified by clinical signs and subsequently confirmed by laboratory tests, is suspected to have been present for seven days. The origin is unclear, but is currently under investigation. Strict biosecurity and biocontainment measures are currently in place and the unit is currently undergoing treatment.

A number of swine dysentery cases have been confirmed so far this year in Yorkshire, with cases also detected in Norfolk, Suffolk, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Gloucestershire and north east Scotland.

AHDB said: “If you have recently moved pigs from North Yorkshire please monitor them closely for the development of any clinical signs of enteric disease and notify your vet immediately if you observe any suspect diarrhoea.

“It is important that a heightened level of biosecurity and monitoring for clinical signs are observed over the next few weeks, especially within the North Yorkshire region.”

Information on Swine Dysentery can be found on the AHDB website

The NPA, AHDB and other organisations recently launched the #MuckFreeTruck campaign, partly in response to evidence that some of the recent Swine Dysentery cases have been spread via transport.

Producers are urged to familiarise themselves with AHDB’s Standard Operating Procedures for lorry washing and cleansing and disinfecting, as well as general biosecurity procedures, listed here

Producers who haven’t yet done are also being urged to sign up to the Significant Diseases Charter, which provides notification of outbreaks. The charter is free to join and can be done quickly via the Pig Hub.

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