150,000 pigs could be culled unless Government acts, Minette Batters tells Newsnight

NFU president Minette Batters has told the BBC’s Newsnight programme 150,000 pigs could be culled unless the Government issues visa to allow more butchers into the country. 

Mrs Batters described the current labour shortage situation within the find chain as ‘exceptionally serious’ with 43% vacancies in the processing sector, including a ‘massive shortfall’ of butchers, a 35% shortfall on seasonal farm workers and 11% on drivers.

  • You can view the interview HERE

“It is why the whole industry have all come together and said we need an emergency scheme, a COVID visa scheme in order to keep the show on the road and get through this short-term period,” she said.

“We don’t believe this will last forever – it can be resolved quite easily but it absolutely needs Government to work with the industry and resolve it.” 

She there were now two priorities – averting an animal welfare disaster and keeping the shelves full to avoid food shortages. 

“We have a got a real crisis situation building in the pig sector, whereby pigs are not coming through onto the marketplace as they are being held back on farm. This will be an animal welfare crisis if it is not resolved. 

“We have been looking at a welfare cull potentially of 150,000 pigs. This cannot happen – it is potentially a week/10 days away and it has to be resolved.”

She revealed she has been trying to arrange an urgent meeting with Home Secretary Priti Patel, who she has been trying to meet for two years, and the Immigration Minister Kevin Foster. 

“This can be resolved, it must be resolved – I do not feel that anybody can preside over a welfare cull of healthy livestock. I don’t believe that has happened in the world before and it cannot happen now. We have act and we have to work collectively with Government.

She refuted claims by Government ministers that the answer was to pay British workers more, pointing out that we are a ‘high wage economy and proud of it’. 

“We have got many examples of seasonal being paid £15/hour. We have adopted the National Living Wage and people have been paid above the National Living Wage. We have been the most preferred destination In Europe to work in and we are the highest wage category in the food sector. We are also the most affordable food in Europe.

“This needs short-term emergency action and now.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.