Scottish pig hardship fund extends for final time as sector 'remains on brink'

NFU Scotland has welcomed the hardship fund extension, but warned that the wider Scottish pig sector "remains on the brink of collapse"
NFU Scotland has welcomed the hardship fund extension, but warned that the wider Scottish pig sector "remains on the brink of collapse"

Scottish pig farmers will receive a final cash injection of £410,000 as part of the Pig Producers' Hardship Scheme, but concern remains that the sector could collapse without more support.

The Scottish government launched the scheme in August 2021 following the temporary closure of the abattoir at Brechin last year, as well as the subsequent suspension of its China export licence.

£715,000 was issued to eligible producers who had supplied the Quality Pig Processors (QPP) plant at Brechin for the Covid-related price reductions they suffered.

It was extended in January 2022 by a further £680,000 and will now see an additional - and final - £410,000 of support made available, bringing the scheme total to just over £1.8 million.

While NFU Scotland has welcomed the announcement, the union warned that the wider Scottish pig sector "remains on the brink of collapse".

NFU Scotland pigs working group chair, Jamie Wyllie said: “It will not take many more losses for some producers to give up for good.

"The funding must be judged against the scale of the losses that all Scottish pig producers, not just those supplying Brechin, are facing – something I discussed in detail with Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon on farm recently."

He said the fund alone would not solve the sector's crisis. Solutions were needed now to turn the sector around and address the problems within the supply chain, he said.

Mr Wyllie added: “The Standard Pig Price has risen sharply to 167p per kg last week, but the reality is that, if pig producers are to stop haemorrhaging money, an SPP more than 200p per kg is needed if soaring costs of feed, labour, fuel, haulage and energy are to be covered.

“I estimate that current cost of production is around 204p per kg, meaning that the SPP must break 200p per kilo soon just to allow producers to start breaking even after recording crippling losses for many months."

Feed prices alone have increased by 60% since February 2021, with more than one third of that being directly linked to the war in Ukraine.

With almost 70% of the cost to produce a pig being feed, this unforeseen increase in feed cost has had a devastating affect for the pig sector.

Mr Wyllie warned that pig producers across the UK were coming out of production for good due to the spiralling costs and losses.

“We need retailers and processors to understand this and support their suppliers," he said.

"Pig farmers need a bigger share of the final price, and we need an increase to what we are paid now or there won’t be a British industry left."

The National Pig Association (NPA) has again called on the UK government and supply chain to do more to support British pig producers.

The trade body urged Defra to take similar action to support producers in England who are also facing unprecedented challenges.

As well as Scotland, producers in Northern Ireland, Ireland, France and other EU countries have received direct support from government in recognition of the situation on pig farms.

However, Defra has repeatedly turned down requests for support for English pig producers.

Survey data published by the NPA suggests there are still 100,000 pigs stuck on farms that should have gone to slaughter.

Farmers are losing in excess of £50 per pig due to the enormous gap between their cost of production and the price the supply chain is paying for pork.

NPA policy services officer, Lizzie Wilson said: "Whilst we are pleased for our Scottish members, yet again our pig producers members are frustrated to learn that their Scottish counterparts are being financially supported by their government.

"The pig industry has already lost an estimated 10% of the breeding herd as producers have left the industry or cut down on production.

"Polling of British pig farmers by NPA shows that 80% will not be able to survive the next 12 months unless the gap between the cost of production and pig prices is significantly reduced.

"Our pig producers need help now, either from government or the rest of the supply chain."