UK pig industry: Supply chain wide summit needed to tackle crisis

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Monty Rakusen
© GettyImages/Monty Rakusen

Related tags: Feed costs, pig prices, NPA, Defra

Challenging market conditions, a pig backlog on farms, record pig feed costs and falling pig prices, mean farmers in the UK have been losing around £25 (US$33.7) per pig for nearly a year, according to the UK National Pig Association (NPA).

In a joint letter to UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, NPA chairman, Rob Mutimer, and National Farmers Union (NFU) president, Minette Batters, said the situation was deteriorating for pig producers and was not sustainable.

They want the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to organize a summit of the entire pig supply chain as a way of trying to find a solution to the current challenges.

Backlog on farms 

The pig backlog on UK farms is now estimated to be well in excess of 170,000 due to a lack of butchers in pork processing plants, and tens of thousands of healthy pigs being culled on farms by desperate producers who have run out of space, reported the association.

“In the first week of this year, some farmers reported that as few as 50% of contracted pigs were taken by processors. On average, 30% of pigs that processors are contracted to take from producers are not going into the food supply chain each week.

“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,” ​noted the NPA.

Sow culling 

The industry representatives also said that 30,000 sows have been lost from the English sow herd over the last six months, equating to around 10% of the herd.

Measures announced last October and recently extended are not working as intended and have failed to alleviate the backlog of pigs on farms, said the NPA. 

The association said is aware of only 105 butchers that have, or are due to arrive, using the seasonal visa scheme, while it is understood that Defra has only received three applications for Private Storage Aid and that there has been no take up of the Slaughter Incentive Payment Scheme.

The NPA and NFU want the visa application process improved to make access simpler and quicker in order to help reduce the backlog.

The letter also urged Defra to encourage retailers to run marketing campaigns to increase British pork sales to help the domestic industry.

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