Ministers have confirmed one-month levy holidays for pig producers in England and Scotland during November, estimated to be worth just under £1 million in savings for levy payers.
AHDB and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) made the recommendation in response to the continued build-up of pigs on farm, falling prices and high production costs – and it has now been agreed by Ministers in both countries.
The decision follows ongoing discussions between the two meat levy bodies, Government and industry to identify ways to help pig producers during these difficult times.
Chairman of the AHDB Pork Board Mike Sheldon, who announced the plan during the Pigs Tomorrow Conference in September, said: “These challenges, in particular a shortage of skilled workers, come on top of pressure on margins largely due to rising feed costs. These issues are extremely concerning and therefore require industry-wide action to prevent the situation deteriorating into an animal welfare issue.
“AHDB is already undertaking work to help the sector, including providing independent evidence to Government setting out the seriousness of the situation, and looking at how together we can support meat processors to ease the supply of labour.
“As part of its wider approach, the AHDB Pork Board has agreed to a one-month levy holiday to help ease the burden of the financial pressures faced by levy-payers.”
QMS Chair, Kate Rowell, said it was important to support producers as they face exceptional difficulties. She added: “After discussions between the QMS Board and AHDB the decision was made to introduce a levy holiday in November for pig producers.
“The pig sector plays an important role in Scotland’s agricultural industry and this relief will help support producers as they work tirelessly to look after the animals in their care.”
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “As they move into one of their busiest months of the year, the levy holiday in Scotland and England provided by QMS and AHDB will be a welcome measure to those in the pig sector, especially in light of the issues they have been facing over the past month. This helpful move will not solve any of the issues but will be of some assistance to the sector.”
The proposal received a mixed response when Mr Sheldon announced it in September. It was welcomed by some as a positive sign of support from AHDB, but criticised by others who said it would make little difference.
Mr Sheldon acknowledged that, given the rules surrounding levy use, the money cannot be targeted at those that need it most, but said it was the best option available. “In the absence of anything else we can do, this is a significant sum of money which will be in producers’ and processors’ pockets, rather than AHDB’s,” he told Pig World.
NPA chairman Rob Mutimer, who sits on the AHDB pork board, said: “While this won’t solve the issue, it will provide some help to producers who suffering terribly at the moment, with the pig backlog and the worst financial the industry on record.
“While many people would like to have seen more, AHDB was very constrained by its rules and regulations in terms of what it was able to offer.”