Defra Secretary George Eustice has told the NPA that he remains confident that the Government support package will help address the welfare issues associated with the pig backlog.
There has been little obvious benefit from the support package so far – very few butchers have arrived under the visa scheme, although more are expected in January, and there has been minimal uptake of the private storage aid and slaughter incentive payment schemes.
But in a detailed response to a letter from NPA chairman Rob Mutimer in November, Mr Eustice insisted the package of measures will ‘play an important role in helping to address the considerable animal welfare implications arising from the current backlog of pigs on farm’.
He said the industry response to the butcher visas has been ‘positive’ and suggested that, following a meeting with processors, he was considering extending the PSA and SIP schemes to March 2022. “Should these schemes be extended, the industry must do all it can to take them up to maximise the additional butchers coming in under the visa scheme and to clear the backlog,” he said.
Mr Mutimer wrote to the Defra Secretary in November, calling on him to take action to ensure the Government’s pig industry support package delivers on its key aim of easing the pig backlog on farms, rather than simply benefiting processors. He also asked Mr Eustice to chair a roundtable of processors, retailers and producers to discuss the crisis and invited him onto a farm ‘to see first-hand how this on-going crisis is impacting British food producers’.
The Defra Secretary said he had hosted a meeting of processors last week added that both he and Farming Minister Victoria Prentis would be ‘very pleased’ to visit a pig farm when their diaries permit.