Red Tractor will not take action against farms that are failing to comply with scheme standards due to factors out of their control in the current crisis, the scheme’s pigs sector board chairman Stewart Houston has confirmed.
An estimated 120,000 to 150,000 pigs are currently backed up on farms across the country, with many facing serious problems with overstocking. In some cases, producers are having to cull some pigs to ease space pressures and there are fears this could escalate unless steps are taken to ease the backlog, including steps to enable processors to recruit more butchers from around the world.
Mr Houston said he and the Red Tractor team were ‘acutely aware of the extreme difficulties faced by pig producers, and we are doing all that we can to support them’.
“We want to give members clarity, provide peace of mind and tackle unhelpful misinformation at this time of heightened sensitivity. I want to reassure members that during this time, no action has been taken against any farmers where our standards on farm have not been met because of circumstances beyond their control.
“While members normally have 28 days to address any non-conformances, we are working with them on a case-by-case basis to offer extensions where possible.
“Non-conformances will be recorded in the usual way, as is our legal obligation. This information is valuable in demonstrating the scale of the problem and making the case for greater support for the sector in our meetings with government. As ever, pig welfare is the top priority for all involved. We need to make sure that proper oversight of any issues, such as overstocking are being managed in the best way possible.”
In the past month, Red Tractor’s chair, Christine Tacon, and chief executive, Jim Moseley have met with Defra minister Victoria Prentis to impress upon her the scale and impact of the supply chain problems.
Mr Houston has also been attending and in regular contact with Defra, the NPA, NFU, processors and other industry stakeholders to ensure the scheme is fully abreast of the challenges faced by the sector. “We continue to back our members by encouraging millions of consumers to buy British. Throughout October we are investing more than £250,000 in digital, print advertising and social media activity,” he said.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “Red Tractor has been working constructively with the NPA to ensure producers are not unfairly penalised for non-conformances caused by this crisis, while taking account of its legal obligation to record these. We will continue to make the case for greater industry support at this unprecedented time.”