The NPA has said is expecting tangible progress in addressing some of the pig sector’s growing problems from a crisis summit that has been scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 10.
Defra is hosting the summit at its London headquarters, with pig farmer representatives and individuals from across the supply chain either attending in person or dialling in.
The summit, which Defra agreed to last week in response to a joint request from the NPA and NFU, will look at what can be done to speed up the processing of British pigs and ease the backlog on farms, which continues to grow.
A key issue to be addressed will be how the Government support package, announced in October and recenty extended, could be used more effectively to increase the throughput of pigs. The summit will also discuss what more could be done to attract butchers to work in pork plants and hiow retailers could increase their demand for and promotion of British pork.
It will take place against a backdrop of a deteriorating situation for British pig producers. The backlog was estimated by Defra at 170,000 finishing pigs in early December and has grown since then, with producers increasingly running out of space and being forced to consider the last resort of culling pigs on farms.
Producers are also taking a huge financial hit, as they are having to feed more and larger pigs on farm for longer, while in some cases receiving less for heavier pigs that have gone out of spec. The situation is compounded by record feed costs and falling pig prices, meaning many pig producers are losing thousands of pounds each week.
The current projections are that it will take until late spring or early summer to eat into the backlog, while the immediate financial outlook for producers shows little sign of improvement.
The NPA said it expects the roundtable to deliver progress and has already fed in several key outcomes that it wants to see, including a written report on what is agreed so that it can follow up on commitments made.
NPA chairman Rob Mutimer, who will be attending the summit with NPA chief executive Zoe Davies, said: “This is the third roundtable that has been held since the start of this crisis, so we really need to see something tangible out of it.
“Many pig farmers are now utterly desperate – and we need to try and find urgent solutions to get things moving, and also to share the burden of all this more evenly. We must act collectively now to save the British pig industry.”