Emergency summit called in mounting pig sector crisis

While official estimates indicate that 170,000 pigs are currently backed-up on UK farms due to supply chain issues, the sector yesterday claimed that the actual figure was much higher – and called for an emergency summit to be set up to address the mounting issue.

Robin Traquair.
Robin Traquair.

Calling on Defra Secretary George Eustice to bring all sectors of the supply chain together to find solutions to the ongoing crisis which has already seen tens of thousands of healthy pigs being culled on farms by desperate producers who have run out of space, the National Pig Association (NPA) and the NFU said that a lack of butchers in pork processing plants was to blame.

And they claimed that in recent weeks on many farms less than half of contracted pigs had been taken by processors.

"For many producers, this has been the case since last summer and the expectation is that, unless things change dramatically, the backlog and ongoing food waste will remain in place until at least June,” said NPA chairman Rob Mutimer.

And he added that meanwhile challenging market conditions, exacerbated by the costs associated with the backlog, record pig feed costs and falling pig prices, meant that farmers had been losing approximately £25 per pig for nearly a year.

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In a joint letter to Mr Eustice, NPA chairman and NFU President Minette Batters said the situation was ‘deteriorating’ for pig producers and was ‘clearly not sustainable’. They said it was ‘totally unacceptable that processors continue to take overweight pigs that they contracted farmers to produce at hugely discounted prices’.

“The NPA and NFU are asking that you arrange a summit of the entire pig supply chain so that we can agree a plan to get these pigs off farms and onto people’s plates,” stated the letter.

Stating that the issue had gone on far too long, English NFU president, Minette Batters said: “The situation facing pig farmers across the country is absolutely devastating and is causing enormous emotional, mental and financial stress for these hard-working, farming families.”

In Scotland, NFUS vice president Robin Traquair said that the North-east of the country had been particularly hard hit, with a three week backlog in that area seeing many pigs growing to weights which were attracting substantial payment penalties.

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And while he welcomed the support which had been made available by the Scottish Government he pointed out that this equated roughly to a month’s worth of losses for most producers who had been losing money since the early autumn.

“There are only around 50 or 60 commercial producers in Scotland but they currently produce more meat than the country’s entire sheep sector so they are substantially committed to the industry,” he said.

“And while juggling the timing of some expensive feed bills can help cash flow for a month or so, sustained losses are creating a real problem for the industry with many producers facing up to the prospect of a difficult meeting with their bank manager to ensure that funds are available to keep their businesses running.”

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