Thousands of healthy pigs will be destroyed unless Government acts on labour – NPA

Thousands of perfectly healthy pigs will end up being destroyed and wasted unless the Government takes urgent action to alleviate crippling staff shortages, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies has warned.

Chief executive Zoe Davies said that with an estimated 70,000 pigs backing up on farms, growing at a rate of 15,000 a week, and that if the Government fails to act, we are likely to see a significant contraction of the UK pig sector.

The NPA is one of the food and farming organisations behind the Grant Thornton report, which, published yesterday called for Ministers to introduce a 12-month COVID-19 Recovery Visa.

The NPA has helped to generate huge coverage of the plight facing the pig sector as a  result of the labour shortages that are affecting the entire food chain.

Dr Davies said: “There are currently 70,000 pigs backed upon farm, rising by 15,000 a week due to pork processors permanently reducing throughput as a result of labour shortages in plants, especially butchers, and there is no end in sight.

“We are desperately seeking support from the Government, particularly the Home Office, to facilitate access to these people now. For the second time in under a year the pig sector is facing some really tough choices, which we really shouldn’t have to be taking as demand for British pork is still strong.

“If Government doesn’t take action, perfectly healthy pigs will end up being destroyed and wasted.

“We are expecting an exodus of pig keepers from this year into next, as they have simply had enough – for almost a year now they have been losing money. We already only supply 40% of the pork eaten here – is it right that we should be importing more from the EU – the ultimate irony of Brexit.”

British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) chief executive Nick Allen said some processors are 25% down on capacity and having to cut down on lines, warning that the country is already facing a shortage of pigs in blankets at Christmas.

He described  the situation in the processing sector as a ‘nightmare’ and said the COVID Recovery Visa would help get some extra people into the country.

“The Government has got to do something really quickly,” he said. “We need a quick fix – we understand longer term that we all have to adapt, and either mechanise or get British labour doing these jobs, but in this immediate short-term, on the back of COVID, we can’t do it. Without the short-term fix, there’ll be long-term damage.”

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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.