AHDB Pork has proposed a one-month pork levy holiday to help pork producers reduce the backlog of pigs off farm at lower prices.
The levy holiday, which was agreed by AHDB’s board today and has to be ratified by Ministers, was announced by AHDB Pork chairman Mike Sheldon at the Pigs Tomorrow conference in Leicestershire on Tuesday. He said the move would be worth approximately £800,000 to the industry, which he said would go a significant way towards sending pigs to slaughter at a loss to ease the backlog, which he said appeared to be the best option available.
Mr Sheldon read a statement from the AHDB board, which said: “The AHDB Board today considered the multiple, exceptional difficulties being encountered by the pig sector.
“Mike Sheldon reported that very serious animal welfare consequences were likely in the coming days and weeks unless the supply chain acts towards low revenue minimal butchery solutions.
“On behalf of the pork sector board, Mike made a proposal to the AHDB board that to support the industry in making these difficult decisions, we should demonstrate support for pig producers by agreeing to set the pork levy at zero for one month.
“This will encourage producers to take up the lower price and will help avert the animal welfare issues without AHDB being in a position where it is distorting the market.
“After extensive discussions, the majority of the board agreed to support the proposal and, subject to confirmation of the legality of the move and subject to getting an indication of support from Defra Ministers, that is what we will do.
“In supporting this proposal, the AHDB board stressed the such a move is only possible because the costs could be met from pork levy reserves, which are currently higher than the requirement that we need to hold, and a re-forecast of our expenditure for this current year. So we will have to make some cuts.
“The AHDB Board also stressed that this is an exceptional move – there cannot be a situation where this kind of use of levy money is assumed to be possible whenever the market turns against producers, whether in the pork sector or any other sector.”
“AHDB also recognised the concerns about animal welfare but also for all our people as we face up to the potential for over-crowding and killing pigs on farm because there is nowhere else for them to go.”
Mr Sheldon stressed that the levy holiday would not cover the costs where producers have to accept lower prices to move pigs of farm, but said it would help mitigate it.
He added that AHDB also had a role in persuading processors to find a way to kill more pigs, even they are they sold on for much lower prices than usual to markets that will accept them.