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Staff shortages starting to affect throughput

29th Jul 2021 / By Alistair Driver

Last week's estimated slaughter levels were well down on the pevious week and year-on-year as the staff shortage crisis appears to be having an impact. 

pig prices Jul24The latest weekly update from AHDB showed estimated slaughter was 3.7% (6,400 head) down on the week before in the week ended July 17, and 10,700 head less than the same point in 2020. Slaughter levels were also 6,700 head down on the five-year average.

"This is the first time slaughter levels have dropped noticeably below year-earlier levels since February. Recent reports have indicated challenges with staffing in processing plants and this may be reflected in the kill level," AHDB said.

Labour shortages are being felt across the entire pig sector. Pork processing plants have been reporting absenteeism of 10-16% even before COVID-related absences, which the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said is now accounting for, in some cases, a further 5-10% of staff that are self-isolating.

The NPA said some processors have been forced to cut production by 25%. The NPA and BMPA have been lobbying Government to make it easier for the industry to access EU workers but, in a letter to NPA chairman Rob Mutimer, Farming Minister Victoria Prentis appeared to rule this out

Pig price

In better news, the pig price continues to rise – the EU-spec SPP increased by 0.78p to average 160.66p/kg in the week ending June 17. However. despite recent gains, prices remain 4.95p below the same week last year, but up 8.46p on the five-year average.

All weight bands grew in price, with those weighing between 100 to 104.9kg seeing the largest weekly increase at 1.63p. The average carcase weight stood at 86.34kg, 210g heavier than those seen a week ago.

To see the weekly price graphs, click here