Farming News - Govt to introduce measures to alleviate pig crisis following intense lobbying by the industry

Govt to introduce measures to alleviate pig crisis following intense lobbying by the industry

15 Oct 2021
Frontdesk / Livestock

The Government is to introduce private storage aid and temporary butchers visas as part of a package of pig industry support measures to help alleviate the pig backlog. 

The Government are to pay for a private storage aid scheme in England, enabling processors to store slaughtered pigs for 3-6 months. This means they can be preserved safely and processed at a later date. It also work with industry to introduce processing of animals on Saturdays.

Until December 31, 800 pork butchers will be able to apply for temporary visas from the existing allocation in the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme, allowing workers to travel and work in the UK for a period of 6 months.

But the Government said this temporary adjustment was in addition to foreign butchers already being eligible since December 2020 to apply to come to the UK through the Skilled Worker Route as part of the point-based immigration system.

These measures are to be introduced as a result of intense lobbying by NPA and across the industry asking Govt to recognise the ‘unique temporary circumstances farmers are facing, brought about by the global economy responding to the impacts of the pandemic and the global pressures facing supply chains worldwide’.

The Government has warned however that temporary visas are not a long term answer and that businesses must invest in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on overseas labour.

They expect the pork sector to offer better training incentives, career paths plus higher wage increases to allow the sector to encourage home grown labour, as well as investing in new technology.

AHDB and QMS have already suspended payments of the levy pig farmers and producers are required to pay for November 2021, 

The Government will work with the AHDB to support the establishments that have been delisted by China and to identify other export markets for pork. In addition, Defra will engage with retailers and food service sectors to support processors and the consumption of a variety of cuts of domestically produced pork.

They took the decision in response to the increasing unsafe build-up of pigs on farm, falling prices and high production costs.

Defra Secretary George Eustice said: “A unique range of pressures on the pig sector over recent months such as the impacts of the pandemic and its effect on export markets  have led to the temporary package of measures we are announcing today. This is the result of close working with industry to understand how we can support them through this challenging time.”

“The Government has already announced a raft of measures to address the global shortage of HGV drivers including increasing the number of weekly HGV tests available by 90% compared to pre-Covid levels, streamlining the testing process and announcing training for up to 5,000 new drivers through skills bootcamps.”

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We are so very relieved that the Government has finally released some measures aimed at reducing the significant pig backlog on farms.

“We are working with the processors to understand the impact of these new measures and to determine exactly what will happen now, and how quickly, so that we can give pig farmers some hope and stem the flow of healthy pigs currently having to be culled on farms.”

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said: “This is very welcome news for the pork sector and provides some long-awaited relief for those farmers with pigs backing up on farm. Given the severity of these issues, it’s critical that this scheme is up and running as soon as possible to ease this backlog.

“Labour shortages across the food supply chain remain acute and continued engagement with government is essential to solve these wider issues. The food supply chain remains united in its view that a temporary 12-month Covid Recovery Visa is needed to enable the entire food and drink sector to recruit for essential roles, alongside an urgent announcement on the extension of the Seasonal Workers pilot scheme.

“I would also urge retailers to play their part in supporting the sector at this time by sourcing British pork and I would ask the public to make a conscious effort to look out for British pork when they are doing their shopping to back British farming.”