Beleaguered pig producers in the UK have been granted a lifeline after the government announced a series of measures to support the sector.
The aid follows demonstrations by producers frustrated at the lack of abattoir and butchery capacity, which meant that up to 150,000 animals were at risk of being culled on farm and meat burned in incinerators.
The government said it recognised the unique temporary circumstances facing the sector due to the global economy responding to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the global pressures facing supply chains.
The announcement by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) includes:
Defra secretary of state George Eustice said the support following discussions with the industry and follows a raft of measures already announced to tackle the global shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers.
The move was welcomed by the National Pig Association’s (NPA) chief executive Zoe Davies, who spoke of her relief that the UK government had finally released some measures to reduce the backlog of pigs 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.”
It is estimated that around 6,000 pigs have had to be culled on farms during the current crisis. Rob Mutimer, chairman of the NPA and Norfolk pig farmer told the National Farmers’ Union council this week that vets across the country had been reporting “extreme welfare problems” on pig farms over the last 3 weeks.
“I’m really sad to say that, as of this week, we are now seeing considerable number of pigs, not in the hundreds but in the thousands, being slaughtered on farms.”
The UK’s leading agricultural media titleFamers Weekly reported that farmers were receiving as little as £0.70/kg for “distress loads” of overweight pigs with animals butchered into 6 primal cuts and exported to China, Poland and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the UK’s leading assurance scheme Red Tractor also came in for criticism for week at the NFU Council meeting for its “heavy-handed and insensitive” letter to producers, which outlined the assurance body’s expectations of keeping to correct stocking densities during the crisis.