Pig industry leaders have welcomed pledges of support from retailers but warned the sector’s crisis is far from over.
The National Pig Association (NPA) said all major UK retailers had responded to an open letter, sent by association chairman Rob Mutimer earlier this month, urging them to take steps to support the British pig farming sector.
In his letter, Mr Mutimer called on retailers to prioritise British pork through their plants and to divert butchery staff, who have been working on imported EU pork or on products such as gammons for Christmas, back to British pigs to get the supply chain moving again.
It came against the backdrop of slaughter-ready pigs waiting on farms for slaughter due to a lack of staff in abattoirs, and reports retailers were stocking more EU pork due to falling EU prices.
The National Pig Association said most major retailers had responded to say they were committed to stocking British pork and supporting the sector.
Mr Mutimer welcomed the support, but warned the pig sector was “nowhere near to being out of the woods” despite a UK Government support package to address labour shortages.
The package, announced earlier this month, includes the provision of temporary visas for up to 800 pork butchers to work in the UK for up to six months, and the introduction of a private storage aid scheme in England for meat processors to store slaughtered pigs for three to six months so they can be preserved safely and processed at a later date.
“Despite the Government’s welcome support package for the pig sector, we are nowhere near to being out of the woods,” said Mr Mutimer.
“In fact, we remain deep in crisis, with thousands of pigs backed up on farms and pig farmers still seeing no improvement.”
He added: “With farmers also facing an unprecedented financial crisis, the support of retailers the entire supply chain and of the British public will be critical to the survival of the British pig sector.
“We will continue to monitor the level of British pork in supermarkets closely to ensure the retailers keep to their commitments.”