NPA calls for Tesco support, as four out of five British pig farmers are set to go bust
The NPA has told Tesco it needs to do more to support struggling pig producers or risk losing its British pork supply base, as a survey shows four in every five producers will go out of business within a year unless their financial situation improves.
Today the NPA has appealed directly to the retail giant to pay a fair price for pork or risk losing its British pork supply base forever. In an open letter to its chief executive Ken Murphy, NPA chairman Rob Mutimer stresses that Tesco, given its scale, is uniquely positioned to act to prevent the ‘destruction of the UK pig sector’.
UK pork producers are currently facing unprecedented losses as costs of production soar due to record pig feed prices.
It currently costs an estimated 203-216p per kg to produce a pig, a figure forecast to rise even higher, as wheat prices continue to rise due to disruption caused by war in Ukraine. Yet average pig prices remain below 170p/kg, meaning many producers are losing tens of thousands pounds each week.
Retailers hold the key to injecting more money into the supply chain and several of Tesco’s competitors, recognising the vital role they play in supporting British farmers, have responded to NPA calls to increase their pig price.
The Co-op, M&S, ALDI, ASDA, Morri- sons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are now paying more for British pork through their dedicated supply chains.
But Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer, which has just announced a trebling of profits to more than £2bn, is yet to respond to the crisis hurting its pig suppliers.
In the letter, Mr Mutimer asks the Tesco boss for the retailer’s support. “The problems facing the sector have been building for some time and have arisen through no fault of the primary producers,” he writes, going on to outline how an ‘unprecedented crisis’ over the last 18 months has hit pig sector producers.
NPA survey data suggests there are still 100,000 pigs stuck on farms that should have gone to slaughter and 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.
The pig industry has already lost an estimated 10% of the breeding herd as producers have left the industry or cut down on production, while the NPA poll of members 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.
“By 2023 British pork will be in such short supply that most retailers will no longer be able to source it,” Mr Mutimer explains.
He stresses that Tesco is in a unique position to help because of its UK market share and vol- ume of pork sales. “Unless action is taken now and a fair price is paid, there will not be a do- mestic pig industry left to service the demands of your shoppers and we know how much they value fresh British produce,” Mr Mutimer writes.
“A relatively modest investment by Tesco will not only prevent the destruction of the sector, but it will mean that British pork will still be available at a price affordable to your custom- ers. Paying a little more today is likely to save you money in the long term.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of time and each week that passes puts pig farmers further into the red.
“I fully appreciate that every part of the supply chain is under strain from inflationary pres- sures and your customers are struggling with the cost of living. However, I am sure that shop- pers and shareholders alike would want you to back British farmers and ensure that we can supply you with fantastic pork for decades to come.”
The NPA is also urging its members to write to Tesco directly to make a similar plea, whilst copying in their local MP.
“Tesco’s famous mantra is ‘Every Little Helps’ – well pig farmers need a lot of help and if Tesco doesn’t step up to the plate, it is going to struggle to source British pork in the future,” Mr Mutimer said.
You can read the full letter HERE
EFRA report on labour a wake-up call to Government
The NPA has called on the Government to learn from the recent crisis and work with the industry to address the labour issues that have crippled the pig sector over the past year.
This follows the publication of a damning report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that highlighted the desperate problems the shortage of butchers in processing plants have caused the pig sector and accused Ministers of not taking them seriously enough.
The influential cross-party committee’s report gave huge credence to evidence given by the NPA during its inquiry into labour shortages in the food and farming sector – and it has adopted a number of the NPA’s asks in its recommendations.
These include calls for the Government to make a ‘step change’ in how it engages with industry and act promptly on its concerns, and for it provide direct support to pig producers affected by the industry crisis.
There are also helpful recommendations on adding roles to the shortage occupation list, lowering the English language requirement in the Skilled Workers scheme and the timing of the Government’s fairness in the pork supply chain review.
Thorough and insightful
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “This is an incredibly thorough and insightful report that has got to the very nub of the labour issues facing the food and farming sector.
“The report is clear that labour shortages, brought about in part by changes to Government policy, have had a huge impact on the pig sector, which is still fighting for its survival.
“The Government now needs to take stock and adopt these sensible recommendations in full. We want to see the Government, and the Home Office in particular, take this issue seriously.
“Ministers need to stop arguing that labour shortages are not a problem, stop deflecting blame onto the industry, and as the report suggests, sit down with us to understand the problems and look at how we can work together to find solutions.
“I want to stress that the NPA agrees with the report’s long-term goal of reducing our reliance on migrant labour. But there is much to work through before we can get there, and we need to rethink the policies currently in place so that the industry can employ enough people to produce the products the British public demand.
“We are hugely grateful to Neil Parish and his committee for delivering such a coherent and balanced report – and sincerely hope it can lead to better things.”
NPA senior policy adviser Charlie Dewhirst highlighted some of the report’s key recommendations:
Secretary of State to intervene with measures aimed at providing support for pig farmers, rather than pork processors.
Charlie said: “We have been calling for many months for direct support for pig producers in England to reflect the enormous financial pressures placed on them over the last year through no fault of their own. Producers in other parts of the UK and across Europe have already received compensation. We have written to Defra again to request that this support is forthcoming for producers in England, too.”
The Government’s review of fairness in the pig supply chain to be taken forward as a matter of urgency and the final report to be published before the end of July 2022.
Charlie said: “Again, this is something we very much support. We have welcomed Defra’s review, but producers cannot wait for a lengthy inquiry to see changes made in how the supply chain operates. We need a rapid conclusion and urgent change.”
Home Office must immediately lower the English language requirement to a ‘basic user level’ for those Skilled Worker Visa roles in the food and farming sector.
Charlie said: “The English language requirement is set too high and creates an unnecessary barrier to recruiting much-needed skilled butchers.
"This policy change is essential, and we see no reason why it should not be made.”
Government to consult with the sector to establish what additional costs businesses face when applying for visas for vital overseas labour and to develop an action plan to minimise bureaucratic barriers and process costs.
Charlie said: “This is another very helpful recommendation that reflects the need to address the extra costs and barriers businesses face in recruiting labour.”
Government to immediately add the food and farming roles that were contained in its MAC’s September 2020 recommendations to the shortage occupation list (SOL).
Charlie said: “We have been calling for skilled butchers to be added to the SOL for a long, long time. The Government should listen to its own advisers and to the EFRA Committee, which fully understands the issues, and respond immediately.”
Charlie concluded: “This should be a wake-up call to Government, which will now have to respond to each of the recommendations. We need a cross-departmental approach to solving these urgent problems when they arise and a recognition that migration policy should be flexible in responding to unforeseen circumstances, such as the pandemic.
“We are delighted that the EFRA Committee has taken on board all of our concerns and we look forward to working with Government to address the many issues raised.”
Future of British pork supply at risk if retailers fail to act now
The NPA is calling on retailers to significantly increase the price they pay for their pork to save the British pig industry from total collapse, following an unprecedented spike in feed costs.
An already desperate situation on pig farms across the country has been pushed beyond the survival limit for many since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted a dramatic leap in the wheat price. It now stands in the region of £300/tonne, compared with around £215/tonne just a few days ago.
Pig farmers, who have already faced more than a year of heavy financial losses, are currently losing tens of thousands of pounds per week, and face a serious and imminent risk of being unable to afford to feed their pigs and keep their businesses going.
The NPA is asking retailers to ensure they pay enough to at least cover pig farmers’ costs of production. This is essential, not only to help ensure the survival of the British pig sector but, with EU pig numbers falling and prices rapidly rising, to maintain their supply of pork, bacon, sausages, ham and other pigmeat products to consumers.
“We need something to happen very, very soon. Many pig businesses can only last weeks, in some cases days,” one desperate producer said at a meeting of NPA pig farmers on Tuesday.
A financial catastrophe
Pig producers have already endured an horrendous 12 months, losing, typically around £25/pig in the first half of 2021, increasing to an unprecedented £39/pig in the final quarter. This was a result of a ‘perfect storm’ of a falling pig price, combined with record feed costs, compounded by having to feed heavier pigs for longer due to the pig backlog.
A number of pig businesses have quit the industry over the past six months with a lot more cutting back on pig numbers. Many businesses had been determined to dig in despite the big losses, in the expectation that the situation would all eventually come good.
The recent spike in the wheat price has now shattered that prospect, particularly, with soya, energy, fuel and labour costs also increasing.
“Nobody can survive with wheat at £300/tonne. The situation is now beyond desperate and there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” NPA chairman Rob Mutimer said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, pig producers highlighted just how dire the situation had become:
- One producer explained how their feed costs increased from £78/pig in April 2021 to £101/pig this month, and are set to soar to £119/pig in April 2022 due to the higher wheat price.
- Another producer said his business’s overall costs of production had risen from 160p/kg in December to over 200p/kg now and are likely to go higher. Others put similar, or higher, figures on current production cost.
- Another estimated that, with forecast losses of £50/pig, a 700-sow pig unit will lose £1 million over the next year at current prices and costs.
- Others pointed out that producers have not been buying as much feed forward as usual as prices were already at record levels, meaning they are hugely exposed to the higher wheat price, up £80/tonne in a few days, with potentially more to come.
- Concerns were expressed that many farmers are reaching their credit insurance limit for feed which will mean that soon feed companies will be unable to supply feed.
- There are still many pigs backed up on farms which risks making an already dire situation far worse.
The NPA, with the support of pork processors, is now asking all retailers to immediately increase the price they pay for their pork so producers can at least cover their costs of production and retailers can ensure a continued supply of British pork.
More than £2/kg is needed to allow producers to break even, which is around 70p/kg above the current price they are being paid.
The UK pig price has failed to respond to some dramatic price increases in Europe, where the market has experienced shortages of pigs, following a notable contraction last year.
Mr Mutimer said: “We need a large and immediate price increase from retailers. Our current pricing mechanism has failed to keep up with the unprecedented events taking place around the world.
“EU pig prices have shot up over the last week or so, leaving the UK trailing behind. This is not something we ask for lightly, but it is now the only way to save the industry’s bacon.
“Some producers, who have exhausted all financial and emotional reserves over the past year, will be looking ahead to the next few weeks and months and making decisions now.
“In other cases, the decision might be taken out of their hands if they are unable to purchase feed or their banks decide they cannot extend overdrafts any further.
“We are staring down the barrel of a total collapse of the British pig industry, which is not only a tragedy for the producers, themselves, but will leave UK consumers short of one of their favourite and most versatile meats. Retailers will not be able to rely on EU pork, either, as it gets shorter in supply and more expensive.
“They need to act now to ensure that they can continue to secure our high quality British pork - we haven’t got long.”
The association is also reiterating its calls for a financial support package from Defra, as has been provided in other parts of the UK and Europe, and is urging the Department to keep the pressure on retailers to take action now.
Notes to editors
- The NPA is writing to all retailers to impress upon them the critical nature of this situation and to ask for a greater return for the pork that we supply.
- AHDB data shows pig producers lost, on average 42p/kg in the final quarter of 2021, equating to £39/pig and the fifth consecutive quarter of losses. Average costs were up 15p to average 193p/kg. Feed costs alone averaged 134p/kg in Q4 but have risen significantly during the current quarter, pushing average losses even higher.
- Pork prices have increased significantly across the EU in the last week, including the influential German pig price, and are expected to go higher. The UK price (SPP) has failed to respond and now stands at £1.38/kg.
- To see which retailers are supporting British pigs through their sourcing policies, CLICK HERE.
Industry crisis summit sets foundations for recovery but urgency now needed to save pig sector
February 11, 2022
The pig industry crisis summit, hosted by Farming Minister Victoria Prentis in London yesterday, has delivered some progress by agreeing a coherent plan to ease the pig backlog.
The commitments made by those that took part now need to be acted on and implemented with real urgency to provide desperate pig farmers with some hope for a viable future, according to NPA chairman Rob Mutimer.
“We are grateful to Minister Prentis for bringing all parties - producers, processors, retailers and their trade organisations - together to try and find solutions to this deteriorating situation.
“She certainly recognises the size and the urgency of the problems and there was a real focus on an immediate plan to reduce the current backlog of pigs on farms.
“There was, however, no silver bullet – there was never going to be. The truth is we need more from the supply chain in terms of a workable plan.
“The challenge is to build on what we have got here and ensure every single organisation involved in the supply is focused on getting that backlog down and easing some of the intolerable pressure currently on pig producers.”
Summary of key points
Here are some of the key points to come out of the roundtable meeting:
A plan for the backlog - Minister Prentis has suggested that further groups are convened to look at the logistics of easing the backlog, including the capacity available in individual plants, as the basis for a coherent plan to get more pigs off farms.
Processors said they have been working to full capacity during weekdays, meaning further shifts would have to occur at the weekend. However, Defra’s latest monthly slaughter figures for January suggest extra slaughter capacity is there (see notes, below).
The NPA will be writing to Minister Prentis to ask that processors set out a detailed plan that is regularly updated, including how many pigs they plan to slaughter per week, how many they actually have slaughtered, and the progress in reducing their backlog.
“After six months of this, the least producers can expect is some clarity on the future so they can plan properly – finding out on a Friday night how many pigs are going the next week is simply not good enough,” Mr Mutimer said.
Changes to the Government support package – linked to this, the Government is considering changes to its support package, including allowing fresh pork from pigs slaughtered under the Slaughter Incentive Payment scheme, to be sold on the domestic market. This would help get more pigs through the system and add value to the carcase.
Promoting British pork – the roundtable also discussed the need for retailers to work with processors to stock and promote more British pork as it comes through the system.
Labour shortages - all parts of the supply chain highlighted labour shortages as the primary cause of the problems being experienced by the industry.
While the temporary skilled worker visas have made little impact, with only just over 120 of the 800 visas available used, the NPA and others called for changes to the skilled worker route, including the removal of the unnecessary English language requirement and adding butchers to the shortage occupation list. However, this is not Defra’s policy area and little progress was made.
Minister Prentis did however agree to convene a meeting with the Home Office and interested parties to look at the issues.
Supporting producers – the NPA continues to call for a compensation package for producers who are taking a huge financial hit. Support for struggling pig producers has been made available in Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Poland and other European countries so far. There was no commitment from Defra on this.
More encouragingly, with some banks putting pressure on producers, Minister Prentis has pledged to talk to banks to make sure that they ‘look with leniency’ where pig farmers are experiencing difficulties.
Supply chain review - Minister Prentis, as previously flagged by Defra Ministers, has announced an ‘immediate review of Supply Chain Fairness in the pig sector’.
“The effects (of the pig industry crisis) on pig farmers have been devastating, and it is clear that many contractual arrangements are simply unfair. Our Agriculture Act includes provisions to address this unfairness, and we are launching an immediate review of Supply Chain Fairness in the pig sector,” she said.
Producers need hope
Mr Mutimer added: “This is an animal health and welfare, logistical, financial and mental health crisis all rolled into one. It has been going on for six months without any sign of it coming to an end – we have seen tens of thousands of pigs culled on farms, at least 40 producers have left the industry and the pig herd is contracting rapidly.
“Those that remain need some hope, something to believe in. In reality this is just the start and no more.
“We will continue to push for compensation and, crucially, for changes to allow more butchers to work in the pork industry.
“And, of course, we very much welcome the commitment for a review of pork supply chain. This as an opportunity to forge more stable and fairer contractual relations across the supply chain.”
“But while that is a longer-term issue, our overriding message is the British pig industry is running out of time – this outline plan must be turned into reality without any delay before it is too late.”
Notes to editors
- Farming Minister Victoria Prentis hosted a roundtable crisis meeting of pig producers, all the major pork processors, all the major UK retailers and various trade bodies at Defra’s London headquarters on Thursday afternoon. This followed a joint request from the NPA and NFU.
- Defra’s latest monthly slaughter figures showed processors killed 986,000 pigs in November, 952,000 in December, but just 873,000 in January. This suggests the extra slaughter capacity is there.
- The current backlog of pigs on farm is estimated to be at least 200,000. The NPA is aware of 35,000 healthy pigs that have been destroyed on farm, although the true number is likely to be higher.
- The NPA is aware of 40 independent producers that have left the industry, and 30,000 sows (10%) that have been lost from the English breeding herd.
- You can read about the depth of the crisis on farms, including the mental health impact in an interview with Rob Mutimer HERE
- You can view first-hand accounts from farmers and vets of living through the crisis HERE
For more information, contact Andrea Tranter
NPA sets out key asks ahead of crucial pig industry crisis summit
February 9, 2022
The NPA will seek a number of commitments from Government and the pork supply chain to address the crisis currently crippling the pig industry at an emergency summit tomorrow.
The NPA, NFU and pig producers will be joined by representatives from all the major retailer and pork processors at an industry roundtable meeting at Defra’s headquarters.
The NPA, which has held preliminary discussions with interested parties ahead of the sum- mit, is seeking action to reduce the pig backlog, sell more British pork in retail stores and di- rectly support producers who are suffering the most during this crisis.
Ahead of the summit, these are the key asks from the NPA and NFU:
Government to look at providing financial support for most badly affected producers, as has been provided in other parts of the UK and various EU countries.
The Government to simplify the skilled worker visa route, including easing the Eng- lish language requirement or putting butchers onto the shortage occupation list, to make it easier for them to recruit much-needed butchers.
Processors to set out and stick to a plan for getting rid of the backlog of contracted pigs. The plan should prioritise those producers most badly affected by the backlog. It must be agreed with producers, and should not include very cheap deals, unless there is clear justification.
Retailers to agree to support processors in using the measures set out in the Govern- ment support package, for example working with them on product going into Private Storage Aid and supporting additional kills under the Slaughter Incentive Payment
Scheme (SIPS), for example with a bigger financial incentive.
The Government to allow valuable cuts from pig carcases from the extra SIPS kills to
be sold in UK retail outlets, rather than only be exported or put into Private Storage,
as is the case now.
Retailers to move more lines from EU pork to British pork and to stop selling im-
ported bone in joints that need to be butchered here for retail packing. Processors to reduce penalties for producers for overweight pigs, especially where the carcases are sold into markets which require no specification.
Retailers to agree to mass promotion of British pork, with key joints/cuts to be speci- fied by processors.
Defra to publish whatever is agreed in a Pig Supply Chain Charter’ that can be used to show progress in implementing the above measures.
Farming Minister Victoria Prentis agreed to convene the summit, following a joint request from NPA chairman Rob Mutimer and NFU president Minette Batters, reflecting the urgent need for action from all parties to address the deteriorating situation in the pork supply chain.
Current forecasts suggest that, unless things change rapidly, little real progress will be made in reducing the pig backlog, now estimated to be well in excess of 200,000 pigs, until late- spring, early-summer. Meanwhile, more and more farmers are running out of space and being forced to cull healthy pigs.
All pig farmers are facing a deepening financial crisis due to having to keep and feed more pigs on farm for longer at a time when feed prices have been at record highs for many months and pig prices are falling.
Mr Mutimer, who will be attending the roundtable with NPA chief executive Zoe Davies, said:
“This summit is an important opportunity to bring everyone together and really thrash out so- lutions to a crisis that has just been getting worse and worse on farms. The situation is dire.
“Getting the backlog down by the summer will simply be too late for many pig farmers. This is a crisis unfolding in front of our eyes – and we must act collectively now to save the Brit- ish pig industry.”
Notes to editors
Pig industry crisis summit convened for 12.45pm, tomorrow (10 February 2022)
The NPA and NFU requested the pig crisis summit in a letter to Defra Secretary in January. You can read more here
The pig backlog is now estimated to be in excess of 200,000 pigs. The NPA is aware of around 35,000 healthy pigs that have been culled on as a result of the backlog, although this is likely to be an under-estimate.
The NPA is aware of 40 independent producers who have recently left the industry, and 30,000 sows (10%) have been lost from the English herd.
For more information, contact Zoe Davies Mobile: 07814 448956
NPA and NFU urge Defra to convene supply chain summit, as pig industry faces collapse
January 31, 2022
The NPA and NFU have called on Defra Secretary George Eustice to call an emergency summit with the supply chain to find solutions to the ongoing and escalating crisis in the pig sector.
The call comes as the pig backlog is now estimated to be well in excess of 170,000 due to a lack of butchers in pork processing plants, and tens of thousands of healthy pigs being culled on farms by desperate producers who have run out of space.
In the first week of this year, some farmers reported that as few as 50% of contracted pigs were taken by processors. On average, 30% of pigs that processors are contracted to take from producers are not going into the food supply chain each week.
For many producers, this has been the case since last summer and the expectation is that, unless things change dramatically, the backlog and ongoing food waste will remain in place until at least June. Meanwhile, challenging market conditions, exacerbated by the costs associated with the backlog, record pig feed costs and falling pig prices, mean farmers have now been losing approximately £25 per pig for nearly a year.
In a joint letter to Mr Eustice, NPA chairman Rob Mutimer and NFU President Minette Batters said the situation was ‘deteriorating’ for pig producers and was ‘clearly not sustainable’. They said it was ‘totally unacceptable that processors continue to take overweight pigs that they contracted farmers to produce at hugely discounted prices’.
The letter said: “The NPA and NFU are asking that you arrange a summit of the entire pig supply chain so that we can agree a plan to get these pigs off farms and onto people’s plates,” the letter states.
The NPA is aware of 30,000 sows that have been lost from the English sow herd over the last six months, equating to around 10% of the herd, although this is likely to be an underestimate.
“We are aware of 40 independent farms that have left the industry already,” the letter states. “All of these factors are taking a huge toll on farmers’ mental health as the crisis worsens every week, especially for those having to endure the trauma of culling healthy animals when there seems to be no end in sight.”
Support package not working
While the NPA and NFU expressed gratitude for the industry support measures, which were announced in October last year and recently extended, they stressed that the measures are not working as intended and have failed to alleviate the backlog of pigs.
The NPA is aware of only 105 butchers that have, or are due to arrive, using the seasonal visa scheme, while it is understood that Defra has only received three applications for Private Storage Aid and that there has been no take up of the Slaughter Incentive Payment Scheme.
The NPA and NFU called on Mr Eustice to improve the visa application process to make access simpler and quicker in order to help reduce the backlog.
The letter also urged Defra to encourage retailers to collectively play their part in running marketing campaigns to increase British pork sales to help steer the industry out of this crisis. Only Morrisons and Waitrose have done this so far.
Mr Mutimer said: “The situation is utterly dire on pig farms, both in terms of the backlog, and financially. We are already seeing a significant drop in breeding herd numbers, and we fear that if nothing changes, we could see a mass exodus from this industry over the next 12 months. Once we lose that production base, we won’t get it back.
“We need some urgent solutions now, which is why we are asking Mr Eustice to bring everyone together – and soon – to discuss how we can all work collectively to prevent this crisis becoming a catastrophe for the British industry.”
NFU President Minette Batters said: “The situation facing pig farmers across the country is absolutely devastating and is causing enormous emotional, mental and financial stress for these hard-working, farming families.
“This is a situation completely out of their control and the fact we are seeing the first ever cull of healthy pigs in this country is absolutely heart-breaking for those farmers and all of us in farming.
“This has gone on for far too long. It is essential that the Secretary of State convenes this urgent summit to find solutions that can alleviate this crisis.”
Notes to editor
- You can read more details of the letter here
- You can read more details of the declining breeding herd here
- You can read more about the support package here
Pig crisis in numbers:
170,000 – Defra estimate of the numbers of pigs backed on farms on December. The number has increased significantly since then.
35,000 – the number of healthy pigs the NPA is aware of that have been culled and destroyed as a result of the backlog. The actual number will be higher.
40 – the number of independent farms that have left the industry.
95kg – current average pork carcase weights recorded, 9kg heavier than two years
For more information, contact Andrea Tranter
Key retailers commit to backing British pork
The vast majority of the UK’s major retailers have committed to backing British pork, in response to an open letter from the NPA calling for their support.
All the big retailers have now responded to the letter sent by NPA chairman Rob Mutimer a few weeks ago urging them to prioritise British pork over EU product.
They have generally sought to reassure the pig sector that they are backing the industry, with continued commitments to British pork and ongoing efforts to address the labour shortage across the supply chain and to ease the pig backlog.
Mr Mutimer called on retailers to help resolve the pig backlog by not turning to cheaper EU pork, particularly where it diverts essential butchery staff away from UK product.
“We are also aware that some previously supportive retailers are now considering moving over to EU pork because it is much cheaper,” Mr Mutimer said.
Falling EU prices have made imported pork more attractive to retailers, and official Government trade data suggest UK pork import volumes have been increasing since the summer, after being well below 2020 levels in the first part of the year.
Describing the continuing impact of the backlog of pigs on farms and warning of the prospects of more welfare culling, Mr Mutimer said: “I am therefore asking, on behalf of my members, for you to help us by prioritising British pork through the plants and diverting butchery staff back to British pigs so we can get the throughputs back to where they need to be and start reducing the backlog to a sustainable level.”
Key points from the responses:
As I am sure you are aware, Aldi has a long-standing commitment to supporting British farmers who are at the heart of our supply chain. We are fully committed to continuing to back British farming and British farmers all year round, despite ongoing cost challenges and increased price competitiveness within the market.
ASDA is committed to assisting our pork supplier and their British farming suppliers in this difficult period for the sector. We have highlighted British pork product to help drive awareness and consumption with our customers.
We have a British Shoulder joint product on feature end which is the main purchasing point in store. We hope to encourage more customers to pick up British pork through this positioning.
We’ve increased our Extra Special range (which is British pork) by 50% for this September. The Extra Special products are selling over 10 tonnes per week. This will be added to with two new lines: Extra Special Ribeye Steaks with Mushroom and Madeira Sauce and Extra Special Pulled Hog Roast Joint.
Looking into the remainder of 2021 we have developed strong promotion plan and have specific activity with a targeted Christmas promotional plan.
I would like to take the opportunity to reassure you that Co-op has a long standing, ongoing commitment to British farmers, farming & food, and in specific relation to the pig industry, ALL of the Co-op Pork supply chain is 100% British.
As we move towards Christmas, we will be looking to increase our British demand with seasonal lines – however, we do recognise that the biggest challenge is the labour shortages that our supplier & the industry is facing. Although to be clear, we will not deviate from our 100% British commitment for our own pork supply in order to deliver Christmas products for our customers.
I would like to reassure you that at Lidl GB we are committed to investing in the British food and farming sector and championing British farmers, which is evident through our endorsement of the National Farmers Union Back British Farming Charter. We have strong commitments to back the British farming sector now and into the future, as such, we source our everyday listed fresh Pork from British farmers and currently have no plans to change this.
As you know, from a Morrisons' perspective we are 100% British on fresh pork and this will not change. We also would like to reassure you that all our abattoirs and boning halls only process and butcher British pigs / pork. We are doing everything we can at the moment to support the British pig industry.
You will be aware that, with the exception of our Continental Charcuterie ranges, all Pork sourced by M&S for the Food Group is British, with Outdoor Bred being our minimum sourcing standard.
We continue to work with our supply base to try and find innovative solutions to the current industry challenges.
Sainsburys are committed to supporting British pork, with 100% of our fresh pork being British, which we have upheld since 2013.
Sainsburys and our processors are working together to ensure we sell as much pork as possible, having frequent conversations to ensure we have the highest throughput of pigs achievable; these include but are not limited to: turning off slow labour intensive small volume processing lines to maximise output, removal of netting of some of our joints and running promotions where relevant.
Sainsburys will continue to work collaboratively with industry to support the British pig sector.
Tesco is the biggest seller of British pig meat in the UK. Over the last 18 months we have worked closely alongside our suppliers to respond to significantly higher demand for bacon, pork, sausages and cooked meats, and our sales of British pork have never been higher.
We are working closely with our suppliers to ensure that British product is being processed to the maximum capacity in the abattoirs. Currently, the lack of skilled butchery in the UK means that we cannot get any more material through the abattoirs.
Tesco removing EU pigmeat from shelves will not result in more British pigs being processed to help clear the backlog on farms. Only the processors finding more butchers will achieve this.
Waitrose, which is generally a strong supporter of British pork, said it ‘appreciates the challenging situation the sector is in’ and has offered to speak to the NPA directly.
Mr Mutimer said: “We are pleased to see the retailers reaffirming their commitment to British pork and their desire to work with the industry to address labour shortages in the responses we have received.
“Despite the Government’s welcome support package for the pig sector, we are nowhere near to being out of the woods. In fact, we remain deep in crisis, with thousands of pigs backed up on farms and pig farmers still seeing no improvement.
“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.”
Notes to editors
NPA calls for butchery visas to avert British pig industry meltdown
The NPA has called for the Government to extend its offer of short-term visas to butchery workers to help avert the collapse of the British pig sector.
On Sunday, Defra announced that up to 5,500 poultry workers will be able to work in the UK ahead of Christmas 2021, delivered through the Temporary Workers route. This followed the Department for Transport’s announcement that up to 5,000 drivers will be able to come to theUK to transport food and fuel in the run up to Christmas.
But there were no measures for the pig sector, despite repeated requests from processors and the pig industry for short-term visas, as a welfare cull on farms looms ever larger due to a chronic shortage of butchers in pork processing plants.
The backlog is now well over 100,000 pigs with some farmers having run out of space and many more at or close to the limit. While some processors are working with the industry to reduce the backlog, preparations are being made for a welfare cull, which is now more likely to have to happen on farms.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies 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.
“If we don’t get the help we need, it is true that consumers will be denied their Christmas favourites, like pigs in blankets. But we are also facing the long-term decline of British pig production and we need the Government to wake up to this now.”
With British pig producers facing financial crisis, due to record costs of production, the NPA is warning of a significant contraction of UK pork production, thereby increasing our reliance on EU imports. A number of pig farmers have left the industry in recent months, with many more reducing their herd size.
The NPA is also asking retailers to play their part in reducing the backlog by prioritising British product over imported.
“There is a lot the retailers can do to help ease the backlog, and we believe that they have a responsibility to do so given their commitments to British pork,” Dr Davies added. “We urge them to prioritise British produce in processing plants rather than relying increasingly on imports, as this will get more pigs moving through the chain. We believe our loyal British customers would be supportive of this.
“In particular, we are concerned that some imports are coming into the UK, being butchered here and taking up valuable labour resource, which is not helping move more of our pigs through the supply chain.
“We welcome efforts being made by some processors to move pigs more quickly - but we would like them to ensure the financial burden is shared equally across the supply chain.”
Notes to editors
1) You can read regular updates on the pig industry situation in our crisis blog HERE
2) The NPA’s Pig Industry Group discussed the crisis at its latest meeting. You can read more HERE
3) The NPA is one of a number of food and farming industry bodies calling on the Government to introduce a 12-month COVID Recovery Visa. You can read more