Staffing challenges ahead for UK pig producers as travel restrictions ease

Reports of challenges surrounding the slaughter of British pigs are increasing, with expectations of difficult months ahead for the UK pig industry, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)

“Covid related staff absences appear to have given way to underlying issues with staff availability,” said AHDB lead analyst for red meat, Duncan Wyatt. “Abattoir staff that had been prevented by travel restrictions from visiting family in the EU are now taking the opportunity to do so.

“In some cases, they are taking extended leaves of absence. There appears to be a shortage of both slaughter and boning hall staff across the sector, as plants struggle to source replacements.”

UK clean pig slaughter in July remained steady on June’s level, at 940,000 head, after a downward revision to June’s figure, according to Defra data. Average carcase weights were 86.7kg, only 200g heavier than in June. July’s production figure was, however, 2% lower than during the same month last year.

Mr Wyatt said that the SPP sample had recorded an 8% decline in GB clean pig numbers during July, compared to last year, meaning there was expectations of a larger year-on-year decline in slaughter numbers to be reported.

“It may be that within-company traded pigs, which are not included in the SPP, have been less affected by any slaughter delays,” he explained. “There are certainly reports of producers rolling pigs again as they did at the beginning of the year. How the situation develops in the coming weeks will be critical.”

In the year to date, 600,000 tonnes of pig meat have been produced, a year on year increase of 7%.

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