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"We feel the government has completely abandoned us"

7th Apr 2022 / By Alistair Driver

NPA member Cameron Naughton reflected the sentiments of many pig farmers across the country in an excellent feature on the pig industry crisis by Channel 4 News.

Cameron Naughton C4The programme focused on the pig industry's problems in the wake of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s damning report on labour shortages, which, published yesterday, accused the Government of failing to take the issue seriously enough, and of jeopardising the UK’s food security with its handling of the situation.

  • You can view the feature HERE

Cameron explained how the backlog on his Wiltshire farm, caused by butcher shortages in pork plants, has been hugely costly for the business.  

“The issue is that they are fast approaching, if not over, the acceptable weight for them to go into the supermarket supply chain. That means that, not only have they cost us a lot more money to feed for this period of time, they will actually be downgraded in value,” he told the interviewer.

The business, run by Cameron and his wife Muriel, has been losing £5,000 a week since Christmas. “I try not to think about it too much. My wife takes the biggest brunt because she deals with the cash flow. I continue to look after animals to the best of my ability, as do my staff.

"As a family we've been keeping pigs since 1958. I've been keeping pigs in my own right for 35 years. I've kept pigs through foot and mouth, through swine dysentery, through TB. This is far and away the most difficult time because we feel the government has completely abandoned us."

Cameron N C4The Channel 4 report noted EFRA's comments that: "We have been struck by the Government's failure to grasp the labour issues faced by the food and farming sector and the actual experience of businesses on the ground.

"There's also been an unwelcome tendency for the government to blame the sector for not doing more to tackle the problem or fully utilising the immigration system, sometimes on the basis of incorrect information."

The NPA’s Charlie Dewhirst explained how the situation remains incredibly perilous for the UK pig sector. "The current situation for the pig industry is absolutely dire.

"We've had a year of loss-making, partly a results of those labour shortages and then we had the extraordinary shock as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. That has caused enormous increases to input costs, so many farmers who already didn't have a lot of financial headroom are now really struggling."

The Government told the programme it would continue to work with the sector to mitigate the labour challenges, highlighting an expanded Skilled Worker route now open to butchers from anywhere in the world.