30,000 pigs culled on farms as backlog remains 'dire'

The sector is seeing a growing pig backlog on farms, along with record feed costs and plummeting pig prices
The sector is seeing a growing pig backlog on farms, along with record feed costs and plummeting pig prices

30,000 pigs have now been culled on farms across the country as farmers take desperate measures as critical worker shortages in processing plants continue to bite.

The National Pig Association (NPA) warned on Wednesday that the situation facing the sector remained 'dire'.

The trade body explained that 30,000 pigs had been culled on farms so far, but this was 'likely to be an understatement'.

The on-farm pig backlog remains and, in some cases, with contingency plans exhausted weeks ago, the NPA said producers had 'run out of options'.

The sector's crisis is a result of slaughterhouse and butchery worker shortages linked to Brexit and the impact of the pandemic.

Feed prices are also continuing to increase while pig prices plummet, adding to the already dire financial situation facing many farmers.

"The NPA is now aware of 30,000 pigs that have been culled on farm and will not enter the food chain," the organisation said today (15 December).

"The harsh reality is that this is likely to be an understatement, as these are only the cases that have been reported to the NPA."

The group added: "Primary producers are bearing the full brunt of a crisis that has it roots in another part of the supply.

"That is why they urgently need more support from government and across the supply chain."

The situation remains critical despite Defra's support package, which included measures such as 800 new butchers' visas, a private storage aid scheme and incentives for processors to put on extra kills.

The measures, announced in October, were all designed to increase throughput in processing plants and, in turn, help reduce the severe backlog of pigs on farms.

But speaking on Tuesday at the high-profile Food Security summit in London, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies warned that the pork supply chain was 'broken'.

"It's time the pain was felt by all, and all actors within the supply chain take some responsibility or there will be no independent pig farmers left in this country," she said.

"Already only 40% of the pork eaten in the UK is produced here – let’s not erode that any further."

It comes after the NPA wrote to all of the UK's major retailers in October asking how they were supporting pig producers during this difficult time.