Labour crisis is devastating the pig sector, warns NPA

Without immediate action from the UK government to address the ongoing labour crisis currently crippling the food and farming sector, the continued operation of much of the country’s pig sector is in jeopardy.
The Pig Producers' Fund will affected by the temporary closure of the abattoir at Brechin. Picture: PAThe Pig Producers' Fund will affected by the temporary closure of the abattoir at Brechin. Picture: PA
The Pig Producers' Fund will affected by the temporary closure of the abattoir at Brechin. Picture: PA

The National Pig Association yesterday warned that a chronic workforce shortage affecting meat processing plants was creating a bottleneck which was causing a growing backlog of pigs on farms - and that farmers now faced the prospect of destroying animals which had no place to go.

“There are currently an estimated 85,000 extra pigs on farms across the UK, a number increasing by approximately 15,000 per week and farmers are running out of space fast,” said NPA chief executive, Dr Zoe Davies.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said that the pig industry had taken a battering over the past year, with the ‘perfect storm’ of Covid-19, Brexit and record costs of production already forcing producers to quit the industry.

She said that empty retail shelves and product shortages were becoming increasingly commonplace - with Christmas specialities such as pigs in blankets already under threat – adding that the knock-on effect of the staff shortages was having a devastating effect on the country’s pig farmers.

“The first half of 2021 was the pig sector’s worst financial performance on record on the back of record costs of production,” said Davies.

She added that AHDB figures had shown that producers had lost £116 million over the first six months of this year.

Stating that this was clearly not sustainable she pointed out that there was no sign of any immediate let up in the financial pressures facing the industry:

“We are already seeing producers up and down the country getting out of pigs or cutting down on numbers because they cannot sustain these losses any longer,” Dr Davies said.

Calling for the government to introduce a 12 month Covid recovery visa to address the shortage of workers in the processing sector, she said: “Unless the government intervenes soon to help alleviate the labour shortage, more producers will quit – and they won’t come back.”

With 22,000 sows already lost from the national herd this year, Davies said: “And this is just the start. Sadly we are expecting a serious contraction of the UK pig industry as a result, largely of the smaller independent farmers who are most at risk.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I cannot believe that this is what the British public voted for when they voted for Brexit. The irony of having to import more pork from the EU as we watch our home market collapse is astounding,” she added.

NFU Scotland’s vice president Andrew Connon said recently that serious problems persisted despite the launch of the Scottish government’s hardship support fund to help pig producers hit by the closure of the key Brechin plant in the spring.

“The huge challenges to the pig sector didn’t stop in May and still persist with many still losing money right now.

"Deductions are still being made, slaughter capacity remains limited, the Chinese market remains closed and feed prices are increasing,” said Connon.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.