Pig farmer hailed after detailing sector's plight on C4 News

The National Pig Association says the situation remains 'incredibly perilous' for the UK pig sector
The National Pig Association says the situation remains 'incredibly perilous' for the UK pig sector

A pig producer who featured on Channel 4 News has been hailed by the industry after he highlighted the plight many farmers are currently experiencing.

Cameron Naughton, who is a National Pig Association (NPA) member, reflected the sentiments that many across the UK are facing as the industry sees its biggest crisis in years.

The programme focused on the issue of labour availability in the wake of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s damning report on worker shortages.

Published this week, MPs accused the government of failing to take the issue seriously enough, and of jeopardising the UK’s food security with its handling of the situation.

Mr Naughton explained to Channel 4 News how the backlog on his Wiltshire farm, caused by butcher shortages in pork plants, had been hugely costly for his business.

“The issue is that they are fast approaching, if not over, the acceptable weight for them to go into the supermarket supply chain," he told the interviewer.

"That means that, not only have they cost us a lot more money to feed for this period of time, they will actually be downgraded in value."

The business, run by himself and his wife Muriel, has been losing £5,000 a week since the Christmas period.

“I try not to think about it too much. My wife takes the biggest brunt because she deals with the cash flow. I continue to look after animals to the best of my ability, as do my staff.

"As a family we've been keeping pigs since 1958. I've been keeping pigs in my own right for 35 years. I've kept pigs through foot and mouth, through swine dysentery, through TB."

He added: "This is far and away the most difficult time because we feel the government has completely abandoned us."

The Channel 4 report noted EFRA's comments that: "We have been struck by the government's failure to grasp the labour issues faced by the food and farming sector and the actual experience of businesses on the ground.

"There's also been an unwelcome tendency for the government to blame the sector for not doing more to tackle the problem or fully utilising the immigration system, sometimes on the basis of incorrect information."

Responding to the feature, the NPA said the situation remained 'incredibly perilous' and 'absolutely dire' for the UK pig sector.

The NPA’s Charlie Dewhirst said: "We've had a year of loss-making, partly a results of those labour shortages and then we had the extraordinary shock as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"That has caused enormous increases to input costs, so many farmers who already didn't have a lot of financial headroom are now really struggling."

The government told the programme it would continue to work with the sector to mitigate the labour challenges, highlighting an expanded Skilled Worker route now open to butchers anywhere in the world.