Farmers may have to kill nearly 100,000 pigs due to a shortage of butchers to work in slaughterhouses following Brexit, it is reported.
The exodus of EU workers has led to an “absolute crisis” in pig farming and forcing healthy animals to be destroyed, said the National Pig Association.
Leading figures in the farming industry have told the Daily Mail that they blame Home Secretary Priti Patel for failing to put butchers on the list of shortage occupations so that foreign workers could come in on a skilled visa.
One reportedly said it was hard to understand how ballet dancers were on the list but not butchers.
The process from the farms to the shops is down around 25% leading to shortages for customers.
Tim Graham/Getty Images)
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies told the BBC’s Today programme: “The issue is that because, for whatever reason, a lot of workers have left processing plants and gone home because a lot of them are eastern European.
“The abbatoirs themselves cannot process the number of pigs that we supply them with on a weekly basis.
“So for the last six to eight weeks, all of the major processers have been cutting their kills by up to 25%, which is leading to pigs being kept on farms for far longer than they should be. And that is leading to an absolute crisis for us on the pig side.”
She said that the nature of farming is that the process cannot be slowed down because of too few staff like some industries, as the animals will still be there coming through the system.
Davies said: “Even if we stopped serving sows now – and that means mating them – it will take 10 to 11 months before the pigs stop coming.
“So you’re getting people in increasingly desperate situations. They are getting into debt. They’re getting very stressed out. And we’re now starting to head towards a situation where healthy animals may well need to be destroyed.”
There is also the worry from UK pig farmers that the crisis will lead to retailers looking to buy products from the EU and this is made worse, said Davies, because currently EU pork is trading about 30 pence a kilo less than UK port.
“It’s the perfect excuse for UK retailers to ship in much cheaper European pork as opposed to British, which in our view is is not what the British people voted for when they voted for Brexit,” she said.