Government to introduce private storage aid and temporary butchers visas as part of industry support package

The Government has announced the introduction of private storage aid and temporary butchers visas as part of a package of pig industry support measures to help alleviate the pig backlog. 

It said the measures, which follow intense lobbying by NPA, people from across the industry and other organisations, recognise the ‘unique temporary circumstances farmers are facing, brought about by the global economy responding to the impacts of the pandemic and the global pressures facing supply chains worldwide’.

The Government will fund a private storage aid scheme in England, which will enable meat processors to store slaughtered pigs for 3-6 months so that they can be preserved safely and processed at a later date. Further details of the scheme will be announced shortly. It also work with industry to introduce processing of animals on Saturdays and longer working days where possible.

A temporary visa system will be introduced. Until December 31, up to 800 pork butchers will be eligible to apply for visas from the existing allocation in the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme, allowing them to travel and work in the UK for a period of 6 months.

The Government said this temporary adjustment was in addition to foreign butchers already being eligible since December 2020 to apply to come to the UK through the Skilled Worker Route as part of the point-based immigration system.

But it said temporary visas were not a long term solution and businesses must make long term investments in the UK domestic workforce to build a high-wage, high-skill economy, instead of relying on overseas labour.

It stressed that it expects the pork sector to encourage better training offers, career options and wage increases to ensure that the sector draws on the large domestic labour pool in the UK, as well as investing in technology across the industry.”

AHDB and QMS announced a pork levy holiday earlier today – suspending payments of the levy pig farmers and producers are required to pay for November 2021. This will amount to savings for the sector of just under £1 million. They took the decision in response to the continued build-up of pigs on farm, falling prices and high production costs.

Other measures include:

  • Working with AHDB to support the establishments that have been delisted by China and to identify other export markets for pork;
  • Support processors and the consumption of a variety of cuts of domestically produced pork by engaging with retailers and food service sectors.

Defra Secretary George Eustice said: “A unique range of pressures on the pig sector over recent months such as the impacts of the pandemic and its effect on export markets  have led to the temporary package of measures we are announcing today. This is the result of close working with industry to understand how we can support them through this challenging time.”

“The Government has already announced a raft of measures to address the global shortage of HGV drivers including increasing the number of weekly HGV tests available by 90% compared to pre-Covid levels, streamlining the testing process and announcing training for up to 5,000 new drivers through skills bootcamps.”

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We are so very relieved that the Government has finally released some measures aimed at reducing the significant pig backlog on farms.

“We are working with the processors to understand the impact of these new measures and to determine exactly what will happen now, and how quickly, so that we can give pig farmers some hope and stem the flow of healthy pigs currently having to be culled on farms.”

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About The Author

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.