The labour shortage crippling UK food and farming businesses has intensified in the vegetable and pig sectors, resulting in vegetables rotting in fields and a growing backlog of stock on farms.
Meat processing plants and vegetable growers, East of Scotland Growers (ESG) , have already announced a shocking scale of logjams and losses caused by a shortage of workers, both in transport and in the fields, and now the National Pig Association (NPA) has joined in industry appeals to government to take immediate action to address the crisis.
The pig industry’s plight comes hard on the heels of ESG’s revelation that the Cupar-based co-operative has already lost in the region of £1.1 million as a result of being unable to process around 2,500,000 heads of broccoli and 1,500,000 heads of cauliflower , some of which was dumped out of store and some ploughed back in to the fields.
And ESG’s managing director, Andrew Faichney has warned that with no end to the haulage or labour issues in sight, losses will continue to accumulate.
He said: “The haulage issue looks likely to remain, which is fundamentally driven by labour availability. Of even greater significance is the on-farm labour, with around 80% of the required workforce on farm, workers have been earning above budget income due to level of overtime required.
“The fear is that these workers will head home earlier than required due to reaching their own financial target. They are actually starting to disappear off farm already, where historically we have relied on workers finishing the fruit season and migrating over to field veg in the months of September and October.”
Meanwhile, according to the NPA, there are currently 85,000 extra pigs on farms across the UK, with numbers increasing by around 15,000 per week, causing farmers to run out of space.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said the first half of 2021 was the sector’s worst financial performance on record, with producers losing £116 million in the first six months of the year, and no sign of a let up in the financial pressures faced by the industry.
“We are already seeing producers up and down the country getting out of pigs or cutting down on numbers because they cannot sustain these losses any longer,” she said.
“The pig backlog is now creating further problems for farmers, forcing them to find extra cash for expensive feed and incur penalties for selling overweight pigs. Many are now being forced to face the real prospect of having to destroy pigs because there is simply nowhere for them to go.
“Without immediate Government intervention, more producers will be pushed over the edge. 22,000 sows have already been lost from the national herd this year, and this is just the start.”