U-turn over visas for butchers?

With the crisis in the pig and other sectors of the red-meat industry being greatly exacerbated by the shortage of workers at processing factories, speculation was heightened yesterday that the UK government was set to issue visas for foreign butchers.

During a debate on the crisis in the House of Lords, Defra minister Richard Benyon set the hares running when he said that while he was unable to make a hoped-for announcement on the issue, he confirmed that one was “imminent”.

However, speaking yesterday afternoon, National Pig Association chief executive Zoe Davies said: "We have heard of unconfirmed reports that the government is set to issue a number of temporary visas to allow processors to employ foreign nationals in abattoirs to help with the processing of the backlog of pigs on UK farms.

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"We have not had any official confirmation by government on their plans so as yet we are unable to provide any comment.

However, some good news for the sector was confirmed when it was announced that pig producers were to be granted a holiday from their levy payments to AHDB and QMS over the month of November.

The suspension of the £1.02 a head levy was estimated to save the in the region of £1 million, aimed at helping to ease some of the financial pressures faced by levy-payers.

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer, said that while the move wouldn’t solve the issue, it would provide some help to producers who were facing huge backlogs and the worst financial crisis on record.

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