Cheap EU pork flooding market as cull of unwanted pigs begins at UK farms

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A major supplier has said high volumes of cheap EU pork imports are flooding the UK market and depleting British farmers, just as the industry faces an unprecedented labor crisis.

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A chronic shortage of butchers has created a huge backlog of pigs on farms, and now low prices of British produce have some farmers facing imminent bankruptcy.

Industry experts have warned that commercial failures are inevitable over the next few weeks, unless some pig producers lose an estimated £17,000 per week.


News comes that hundreds of pigs are slaughtered on British farms due to a lack of workers to process them for sale.

Phil Woodall, general manager of Thames Valley Camback, a major pig marketer, said that first and foremost the region was “exacerbated by the pandemic, a severe shortage of butcher staff as a result of Brexit.”

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He said the situation was worsened by cheap imported products coming from the European Union. The bouts of African swine fever have caused German producers to limit their ability to export pork to China, an important market.

“So Germany, one of the power houses of pork production in the EU, is flooding the rest of Europe with cheap pork,” explained Mr. Woodl. “It is an escalation of the crisis, which is adding to the issues of the UK workforce.”

A normal animal that goes for slaughter weighs around 85kg and the cost of producing it is around 160p per kg.

“We are cutting European prices,” said Mr Woodall. “Some processors are buying those pigs – which cost 160p per kg – at 75p and 80p per kg.

“This means some producers are losing around £68 per pig, and an average producer can sell 200-300 pigs a week.”

With these prices, farmers could lose £20,000 a week, a figure that Mr Woodall termed as “unsustainable”.

He predicted inevitable business failures and, eventually, the collapse of British firms in the form of an over-reliance on imports.

“We are effectively exporting our industries to countries that have poor animal welfare standards, and the government is standing up and looking into this,” concluded Mr. Woodall.

Merrill Ward, who runs a family farm in Lincolnshire, said that “retailer shelves are now being filled with foreign-imported pork that does not meet our welfare standards.”

Speaking at a Conservative conference event on Monday, Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged that to get the backlog of excess pork out the door, farmers may have to reduce their prices in the short term. He added: “We may need to adjust prices to clear the backlog. Now farmers with riskier businesses will not appreciate it.”

If the labor shortage in the slaughterhouses is not addressed, there are about 120,000 pigs waiting to be raised. On Monday, the National Pig Association confirmed that some farmers in East Anglia have begun slaughtering more than 500 pigs to ease overcrowding.

Group chief executive Zoe Davis told many times That it was “just the beginning”. She said: “It’s not the additional supply farmers have been contracted to raise these pigs, but the facilities are taking a quarter less than they agreed because they don’t have butchers.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described pig farming as part of a necessary post-Brexit transition. speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marrow Show up, he said: “I hate to break it to you, Andrew, but I’m afraid our food processing industry involves killing a lot of animals, that’s the reality.”

He added: “There will be a period of adjustment, but I think that’s what we need to see in this country.”


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