NPA calls for weekend kills as ‘crisis point’ nears

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies has called for action to help ease the backlog on farms, including weekend kills, as the situation on pig farms nears ‘crisis point’.

Dr Davies and Simon Watchorn, who runs an outdoor pig herd on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, were interviewed on BBC Look East on Wednesday. Mr Watchorn explained how current losses of approximately £10/pig mean he is losing £3,000 a week and said these losses that cannot be sustained for much longer, fearing producers could start to go out of business.

The NPA estimates that more than 100,000 pigs are backed up on farms due to a ‘perfect storm’ of events that began with a series of processing plant closures due to COVID-19 in the autumn and subsequent export bans to China on some affected plants.

At the same time, COVID-19 issues across Europe and Germany’s ASF export ban have resulted in a surplus of pigs and falling prices across the EU. Disruption to EU exports due to new Brexit checks and bureaucracy, while EU imports continue to pour in without the equivalent new checks, have further compounded the problems since the start of the year.

The combination of falling UK prices – the SPP stood at 139.63p/kg during the week ending February 13 – and rising feed and straw costs mean producers ‘could have been losing more than 20p/kg in January 2021′, AHDB said.

Throughput for the week, at 175,500 head, was 6,800 lower than the week before, and nearly 2% lower than the same week last year. Carcase weights averaged 89.84kg, nearly 700g lighter than the previous week, but still significantly heavier than at this point last year.

The NPA wants to see more done to alleviate the backlog, including, in the short-term, weekend kills at pork plants.

“We are getting to crisis point now – something is going to give,” Dr Davies told Look East.

“We have to find solutions for those farms, whether it be additional throughput and trying to get weekend opportunities going at pork plants, putting more product into storage or increased demand into retail and export markets. We have to get this product moving and we have to get these pigs off farm.”

The NPA recently brought Government and industry for a constructive roundtable event, chaired by Farming Minister Victoria Prentis with Defra Secretary George Eustice in attendance, to discuss the situation and seek short- and longer-term solutions to address the issues.

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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.