Farming leaders say the UK Government’s decision to issue temporary visas for transport and poultry workers but ignore other sectors is too little, too late.
As the pig industry makes preparations for a welfare cull to reduce the backlog of animals on farms, the National Pig Association’s (NPA) chief executive, Zoe Davies warned that not only might there be no pigs-in-blankets this Christmas, the country is now facing the long-term decline of British pig production.
She said: “We were extremely disappointed that the Government has ignored repeated requests for temporary visas for butchers, despite the overwhelming evidence of the impact this is having across the supply chain.
“We desperately need those visas, even for a short period of time to help us get rid of the backlog.
“This is not just about saving Christmas, which seems to be the Government’s sole focus, but about protecting pig welfare and averting an environmental disaster.”
The NPA is also asking retailers to play their part in reducing the backlog by prioritising the British product over imported pigmeat.
NFU Scotland (NFUS) also insisted the government had to do more to tackle the labour crisis on farms and the wider food and drink sector, including replacing the Seasonal Workers Pilot (SWP) scheme with an expanded permanent scheme.
A recent survey of Scottish soft fruit and vegetable growers estimated there is a 20% shortfall in seasonal workers.
NFUS chief executive Scott Walker said: “Short term visas around haulage and poultry processing may provide short term relief to supply issues but long-term solutions are what is needed.
“At farm level, farmers are making business decisions now. If permanent and seasonal staff are not going to be available then they will need to scale back production and restructure accordingly.
“That will have knock on effects for consumer choice and would be a step backwards for a Scottish food and drink industry committed to growing in value to £30 billion by 2030.”