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The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has defended proposals for a 20% hike in the pork levy – arguing that it is vital to... Pig levy hike ‘vital’ for producers

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has defended proposals for a 20% hike in the pork levy – arguing that it is vital to deliver value for money to producers.

Announced in October, the planned increase would be the first for more than 20 years. It follows a challenging three years for the sector which has seen pig prices tumble, sow numbers plummet and producers leave the industry.

The proposal would see the total pig levy rise by 21p to £1.26/pig from April 2024. This would comprise a 17p increase in the producer levy to £1.02/pig and a 4p increase in the processor levy to 24p/pig.

The AHDB says the increase would raise a further £1.5 million annually, taking the total levy to around £8.6m. The additional funding will be used to enhance services across priority areas including exports, promotion and marketing.

Spending power

AHDB Pork sector council chairman Mike Sheldon said: “The levy rate is the same today as it was over 20 years ago, and its spending power has dramatically reduced since then. We need to act together to face huge challenges and optimise the future of the sector.”

An increase of 21p/pig would allow AHDB to keep delivering vital support, whether through promoting the high integrity of British pork, pursuing export sales to underpin UK prices or by pushing back on mistruths around nutrition and production, said Mr Sheldon.

“As the stakes rise, we need the levy to do more to regularly remind consumers and governments of the high integrity of British pig meat, to ensure optimum sales and appropriate policy-making.

“We need ever more clever and impactful marketing campaigns to continuously inspire consumers to enjoy pork, at home or when out, and to target those who are more likely to question meat eating.”

Shape the future

The increase follows an AHDB Shape the Future consultation with levy payers. It found that independent research, activity to identify new export markets and domestic marketing are all seen as vital to levy payers.

AHDB chairman Nicholas Saphir acknowledged there was never a perfect time for a levy hike. But he said.”It must be noted that it has been at least 12 years since a levy rate was last increased.”

The AHDB was right to explore the option of increasing current levy rates. But they were doing so responsibly and taking into account the impact of the current economic climate on farmers, producers and processors.

“I do recommend that you fully support the proposed increases,” said Mr Saphir.

‘Highlights show what can be achieved’

The AHDB says its achievements over the past year show what can be achieved by using the levy wisely and investing in key areas that benefit producers. It says those achievements include:

Marketing: Boosting consumer attitudes to British pork

A Mix Up Midweek TV campaign reached 27 million adults, while the AHDB’s latest social media campaign was seen 68 million times.

The last independent review in 2020 for the Midweek Meals campaign showed it help increase sales by £37.3m in three years.

The AHDB says post-Brexit changes mean itcan now champion British pork specifically – enabling it to be even more supportive of the sector.

Exports: Promoting British pork overseas

British pork was sold in over 91 countries during 2020-2022. Last year, 370,000 tonnes of British pig meat were sold overseas, generating an extra £624m in revenue.

The more markets that are opened, the better protected we are from losing ground in any one of them, including our home market, says the AHDB.

Reputation: Protecting and promoting the reputation of  British pork

This ‘hidden’ work is not often seen by levy payers. But the AHDB says it is vital to counter mistruths and address concerns over the impact of pork consumption on human health, animal health and welfare, and the environment.

The AHDB has publicly challenged the credibility of the 2019 Global Burden of Disease Study, published in The Lancet, as well as raised issues regarding impartial reporting of facts relating to the pork sector by the BBC.

The AHDB says it also collects and uses data it to quell concerns over antibiotic use in the sector.