Pig sector facing ‘perfect storm’

Crisis talks have been held to address the ‘perfect storm’ of events that have left the pig sector in its most critical state for decades - with thousands of pigs backed up on farms due to the combination of Covid-19 problems in pork plants and export disruption since early January.

UK Defra farming minister Victoria Prentis chaired a round table event this week, which was also attended by Secretary of State George Eustice, senior Defra officials and representatives of pig producers, processors, retailers, AHDB and the devolved administrations.

“This was a very constructive meeting and we are very grateful for how seriously both ministers and the department are taking this,” said National Pig Association chief executive Zoe Davies, who said Covid-19 problems in processing plants, coupled with a lack of China re-certification for abattoirs and Brexit issues, have created a backlog of100,000 pigs on farms.

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“The net effect of this has been that many more pigs need to be cared for and provided with increasingly expensive feed and straw, resulting in rapidly declining cash flows and mounting losses for producers.

“The backlog is growing and pig farming is at its most critical state for 20 years,” she told the meeting, adding that it had been estimated that on average, UK producers are losing around £20 on each pig they produced.

“While we have farm contingency plans in place to cope with short term difficulties in moving livestock, these plans cannot be sustainable in the face of continuing and further backlogs.”