Farming Minister Victoria Prentis has promised that the Government will ‘monitor’ the evolving situation’ in the pig industry, after she was questioned about the crisis in the Commons.
According to the NPA, the Government’s support is not working, with only a handful of butchers having arrived so far, little or no uptake on Private Storage Aid, and no obvious progress in reducing the pig backlog on farms. In fact, for many farmers the situation is getting worse and more pigs are being culled on farm.
The NPA is aware of 16,000 pigs that have been killed on farms, but believes this is a huge under-estimate.
DUP MP Jim Shannon asked Mr Eustice in the Commons ‘what steps he is taking to prevent a mass cull of pigs in the UK’.
Responding Mr Prentis said: “We have been working closely with industry throughout this period to understand how best to support it in response to the challenges caused by the pandemic, including the loss of the Chinese market to several processing plants, disruption to CO2 supplies, and a temporary shortage of labour, specifically skilled butchers in the processing sector.
“In response to these challenges, we recognise that in recent months a significant number of pigs have had to be kept on farm.”
She highlighted the elements of the Government’s package of support, announced in mid-October, including the approval of up to 800 visas for pork butchers, a Private Storage Aid scheme, and a Slaughter Incentive Payment Scheme and working with AHDB to identify new export markets for pork, particularly lightly-processed pork.
She also pointed to the suspension of the pork levy during November in England and Scotland, which will save the sector just under £1 million.
“The Government will continue to monitor the evolving situation and work closely with the industry through this challenging period,” she said.
The NPA has asked Defra Secretary George Eustice to carry out proper oversight of the support package and to convene a roundtable involving all interested parties in the supply to try and find solutions.