Defra agrees to host pig industry crisis summit

Defra has finally agreed to a joint request from the NPA and NFU for a roundtable summit to discuss the worsening pig industry crisis.

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer and NFU president Minette Batters wrote to Defra Secretary George Eustice on January 21, calling for him to ‘arrange a summit of the entire pig supply chain so that we can agree a plan to get these pigs off farms and onto people’s plates’.

Responding, Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said she agreed that ‘convening a roundtable bringing together producers, processors, and retailers to discuss the ongoing challenges faced by the sector would be helpful’. The date for the summit will be arranged ‘shortly’.

She acknowledged that recruitment of butchers via the temporary visa route, which closed to new applications on December 31, had ‘taken longer than initially expected’, but said processors could still recruit butchers via the new points-based immigration system, introduced in January 2021.

She also accepted that uptake of both the Private Storage Aid (PSA)and Slaughter Incentive Payment (SIP) schemes has been lower than anticipated, but said she believed the extensions and changes to the schemes, ‘if taken up by the processors, will help to further reduce the current backlog of pigs on farm’.

The NPA has been calling for a third industry crisis summit for some time, amid growing concern over the future of the pig industry, as the crisis deepens, both in terms of the backlog and the dire financial situation.

Mr Mutimer welcomed the news: “We are pleased that Defra has finally agreed to our joint request with the NFU for a crisis summit,” he said.

“We desperately need to get everyone together, so we can explain just how serious things are on farm – many people are now utterly desperate – and to try and find urgent solutions to get things moving, and also to share the burden of all this more evenly.

“The current projection is that if things don’t change, we are not going to start seriously eating into the backlog until late-spring-early summer. That, I’m afraid, will simply be too late for many pig farmers. This is a crisis unfolding in front of our eyes – and we must act collectively now to save the British pig industry.”

The NPA is continuing to talk to retailers and look for potential solutions ahead of the meeting to ensure it achieves some meaningful outcomes.

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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.