'Crisis point': Farmers urge action to get pigs moving off farms

The National Pig Association says it wants to see more done to alleviate the backlog
The National Pig Association says it wants to see more done to alleviate the backlog

Pig producers have called for urgent action to help ease the backlog on farms as the situation is now nearing 'crisis point'.

Estimates by the National Pig Association (NPA) show that more than 100,000 pigs are backed up on farms due to a 'perfect storm' of events.

This began with a series of processing plant closures due to Covid-19 in the autumn and subsequent export bans to China on some affected plants.

At the same time, Covid-19 issues across Europe and Germany's African swine fever (ASF) export ban have resulted in a surplus of pigs and falling prices across the EU.

Disruption to exports due to new Brexit checks, while EU imports continue without the equivalent new checks, have further compounded the problems since the start of the year.

The combination of falling UK prices - the SPP stood at 139.63p/kg during the week ending 13 February - and rising feed and straw costs mean producers 'could have been losing more than 20p/kg in January 2021', AHDB said.

Zoe and Simon Watchorn, who run an outdoor pig herd on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, were interviewed on BBC Look East on Wednesday (17 February).

They explained how current losses of approximately £10/pig meant they were losing £3,000 a week, losses that cannot be sustained.

"We are getting to crisis point now – something is going to give," Zoe Watchorn told the broadcaster.

"We have to find solutions for those farms, whether it be additional throughput and trying to get weekend opportunities going at pork plants, putting more product into storage or increased demand into retail and export markets.

"We have to get this product moving and we have to get these pigs off farm," she said.

The NPA said it wanted to see more done to alleviate the backlog including, in the short-term, weekend kills at pork plants.

The industry body recently brought government and industry for a roundtable event, chaired by Farming Minister Victoria Prentis with Defra Secretary George Eustice.

The roundtable discussed the situation and seek short and longer-term solutions to address the issues.