Farming Minister Victoria Prentis has ruled out the provision of any funding from Government for animals culled as a result of backlogs on farms caused by staff shortages in pork plants.
The NPA is aware of 35,000 healthy pigs that have been culled and disposed of on farms, as farmers have exhausted contingency plans and run out of space, although these are only the reported cases and the true number is likely to be much higher.
The NPA has been seeking compensation packages from Defra to reflect the huge financial losses pig farmers are incurring as a result of factors entirely out of their control, and the terrible position some producers have been placed in of having to kill healthy pigs on farm. Two tranches of compensation have been made available to pig producers in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Mrs Prentis was asked by Shadow Farming Minister Daniel Zeichner what recent discussions Defra Ministers has had with relevant stakeholders on a compensation package for the English pig farmers ‘in regard to the culling of healthy pigs due to capacity restraints at abattoirs’.
Mrs Prentis said: “The Government does not provide financial support for the culling of animals. Responsibility for animal welfare on the farm remains with the owner/keeper, who should have contingency plans in place to ensure the welfare of their animals.”
Her comments echoed those made by Defra Secretary George Eustice, who told the EFRA Committee last year that shortages in pork plants represented a ‘business risk’ to producers and therefore costs arising from it would not qualify for compensation.
Mrs Prentis said she and Mr Eustice have ‘frequent discussions with the pig sector on the unique challenges the sector has faced this past year’ and pointed out that the Department provided a package of support measures in October.
These included temporary work visas for up to 800 pork butchers, and Private Storage Aid (PSA) and Slaughter Incentive Payment (SIP) schemes to facilitate an increase in the throughput of pigs through abattoirs. However, the reality is that these have had barely any impact so far on improving throughput in pork plants and reducing the backlog.
Mrs Prentis added that Defra, with AHDB, was working to identify new export markets for pork, while AHDB and QMS in Scotland suspended the statutory levy for a month.
“The Government will continue to monitor the evolving situation and work closely with the industry through this challenging period,” she said.