The NPA is calling on Defra Secretary George Eustice to convene a roundtable bringing together all parts of the pig supply chain to discuss what the organisation’s chairman Rob Mutimer has described as ‘increasingly dire situation’.
The Government’s support package announced in mid-October, while well-intentioned, has not yet made a difference, according to the NPA. Very few extra butchers have take advantage of the temporary visa scheme, with processors not expecting this to change until January, while there has been very little interest in the private storage aid scheme.
Processors remain short of butchers and, while they have been putting on extra kills to try and eat into the backlog, they are still not processing anything like the number of pigs that are available on farm.
The backlog is, at best, not improving and is getting worse is for some producers, who are increasingly running out of space and being left with no other option than to kill pigs on farm to ease the pressure.
The NPA has heard of 16,000 pigs being culled on various farms, but said this is likely to be gross under-estimate, once unreported cases are factored in.
In an NPA member survey, taken ahead of a meeting with Defra this week, more than one in 10 of people who responded said they had culled pigs on-farm. Nearly five in every six producers reported extra pigs on their farms, with 17% trying to cope with more than 1,000 extra pigs.
Most concerning was that nearly 40% of respondents said the situation was getting worse, while more than half said it was unchanged. Just 8.5% said it was improving.
Compounding the problem, as producers feed more pigs for longer, is the crippling feed cost, which continues to increase from already-record levels, with wheat currently trading at around £230/tonne.
The NPA contines to call on Defra to carry out proper oversight of its support package to ensure it delivers on its aim of reducing the backlog on farms, rather than just helping processors out of their problems.
“We have also asked George Eustice to convene a roundtable meeting for all interested parties in this disaster to try and thrash out solutions, and we are yet to receive an answer,” NPA chairman Rob Mutimer said.
“The support package is not working and we need more help from Government and across the supply chain.”
The NPA’s Pig Industry Group met online on Wednesday. The discussion reinforced how serious the situation is right across the sector, with little immediate sign of things improving.
Mr Mutimer said producers were ‘punch drunk, it has been going on for so long’. “The situation is not getting any better and with Christmas coming up and we are going to lose more slaughter days. When you also look at these massively rising feed prices, it really looks dire. We are getting very worried,” he said.
“While we hope there might be some chink of light in the New year, we are still searching for a solution as to how we get rid of these extra pigs on farm because it does not look like that is going to happen any time soon, which is deeply disappointing.”