NPA urges retailers to prioritise British pork over imports to help ease backlog

The NPA has written an open letter to retailers calling on them to back British pork over EU product to support producers in the midst of the serious crisis engulfing them.

In the letter, which has been widely distributed and reported on in the media, NPA chair Rob Mutimer highlights the fact that, because of the current price differential between cheap EU and UK pork, increased volumes of EU pork are being imported into the UK for further processing.

Highly processed products such as gammons needed for Christmas have diverted essential butchery staff resource away from that required for British pigs, while other products that require no butchery are being imported and prioritised over more labour-intensive British products, simply to keep the supermarket shelves full.

“These two issues combined have resulted in a slowing down of the throughput of British pigs through plants, which is adding to the already severe backlog,” Mr Mutimer writes.

“We are also aware that some retailers, who have to date been very supportive of their British supply chains, are now considering moving over to EU pork because it is much cheaper. This would make our situation so much worse to the point that many more pig producers, in addition to those responsible for the 27,500 sows we already know about, would have no choice but to exit the industry.”

The letter goes onto urge retailers to prioritise British pork to help get throughputs back to where they need to be and start reducing the backlog to a sustainable level.

You can read the full letter here:

Re: Significant issues within the British pig supply chain

As a result of the labour supply issues in pork processing plants, we currently have an estimated 120,000 pigs backed up on UK pig farms that should have gone to slaughter. We have been doing everything we can to raise the labour shortage issue to Government and spell out the impacts and consequences, but we appear to have reached an impasse, and repeated requests for support in the form of 12-month COVID recovery visas have thus far gone unheeded. 

We are also aware that because of the current price differential, there is an increased amount of EU pork being imported into the UK for further processing, which has caused two issues.

Highly processed products such as gammons needed for Christmas have diverted essential butchery staff resource away from that required for British pigs.  We have also seen other products that require no butchery being imported and prioritised over more labour-intensive British products, simply to keep the supermarket shelves full.  These two issues combined have resulted in a slowing down of the throughput of British pigs through plants, which is adding to the already severe backlog.

We are also aware that some retailers, who have to date been very supportive of their British supply chains, are now considering moving over to EU pork because it is much cheaper. This would make our situation so much worse to the point that many more pig producers, in addition to those responsible for the 27,500 sows we already know about, would have no choice but to exit the industry. 

The percentage of contracted British pigs being accepted by processors has been reduced by up to 25% per week since the beginning of August and has now reached the point where some farmers are facing a welfare cull of their pigs for rendering because they have simply run out of space and have no ability to shut off the pig supply coming through. 

The only option for some will be to cull pigs on farm, which is something that we have tried our utmost to avoid, not least for those that lived through the Foot and Mouth outbreaks who will not want to relive such a heart-breaking experience. Others would have to pay for their pigs to go to dedicated slaughterhouses for culling and rendering.  Not only would this be an incredible waste of healthy pigs and good pork, it would be financially ruinous and incredibly damaging for your supply chains.

I am therefore asking, on behalf of my members, for you to help us by prioritising British pork through the plants and diverting butchery staff back to British pigs so we can get the throughputs back to where they need to be and start reducing the backlog to a sustainable level. This is no longer a question of cost, and need not continue indefinitely, but comes from the desperate need to reduce the backlog of pigs that we have on our farms and avoid this precipice that we now find ourselves facing.

Anything you can do would be most appreciated. We look forward to your response by Friday 8th October.

Yours sincerely

 Rob Mutimer

Chairman

National Pig Association

Get Our E-Newsletter - Pig World's best stories in your in-box twice a week
Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy
Share.

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.