British pig producers are warning up to 70,000 more animals are stranded on UK farms due to shortages of workers at slaughterhouses and meat factories.
The excess number of pigs on UK farms is increasing by 15,000 every week, with around a quarter fewer pigs leaving for slaughter than one would normally expect, according to the industry’s trade body , the National Pig Association (NPA).
Pigs ready for slaughter but stranded on farms need to be fed and housed, which causes difficulties for breeders. These large pigs gain about a kilogram per day, according to the NPA.
“I get calls every day from members saying we’re in deep trouble,” said Zoe Davies, executive director of the NPA.
“People are using barns, temporary housing outside, whatever they can do to take the pressure off the farm, but there just doesn’t seem to be an end to it. We don’t have anyone to treat these animals, so what’s going to happen? They’re going to sit there.
Britain’s meat-processing industry, two-thirds of which are non-UK workers, lacks around 15% of its workforce of around 95,000 people usually employed in the sector, according to the industry body British Meat Processors Association.
Many Eastern European workers employed in meat processing plants returned to their home countries during the coronavirus pandemic and did not return.
Pork producers are calling on the government to provide “access to labor very quickly, however they decide to do it,” not just from the EU, Davies said. She added that training British workers and young people to do the job would take time and not provide the immediate staffing required by the industry.
“It’s access to a skilled workforce, wherever it is, and the ability to bring it in quickly, that’s a big part of what companies in the production industry are asking for. food, ”she said.
The meat processing industry is calling on the government to consider options such as issuing short-term visas to deal with the labor shortage.
“What would really help was if the government recognized there was a problem and sat down with the industry,” said Nick Allen, CEO of BMPA.
“We can offer solutions such as a short-term visa or the list of shortage jobs.
“There is not this joint interministerial reflection in progress at the moment [in government]. The Home Office is in a different location from Defra. We find that Defra understands that there is a problem and is receptive, and then other departments, the Home Office in particular, take a different view of the problem and think there is not.
Earlier in the week, Tom Bradshaw, vice president of the National Farmers’ Union, warned that there were “big problems with the pigs retreating on the farm.”
He said: “The slaughterhouses only operate four days a week because they don’t have enough butchers to process the pork. It creates big delays on the farm which is very inefficient, you have to keep feeding these animals, they get bigger than they should be for the slaughterhouses and it creates big problems.
BPA also warns that current pressures will lead to a ‘mass exodus’ of pig farmers over the next 12 months, as producers reduce their numbers, retire or switch to farming other goods such as crops. .