Farmers are losing £26 per pig due to increased costs associated with the surplus ©  Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Farmers are losing £26 per pig due to increased costs associated with the surplus © Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

70,000 excess pigs on farms due to labour shortage

27 August 2021

The shortage of labour plaguing the meat sector has led to a “critical situation” with a surplus of 70,000 pigs left on farms.

The pig industry is currently facing a labour shortfall of around 15%, meaning pigs are forced to stay at farms, outgrowing their accommodation and costing more money to feed, according to the National Pig Association (NPA). 

The excess total is growing by 15,000 a week, forcing farmers to “destroy” healthy pigs. 

The NPG estimates farmers have been losing an average of £26 a pig since January due to the increased costs associated with farming and feeding surplus numbers. 

Zoe Davies, chief executive of the NPA, told Sky News: "We have got weeks before we get to a critical situation.

"We have to do everything we possibly can to prevent animals having to be destroyed."

Davies explained an over-reliance on EU workers who were forced to leave the UK following Brexit, or returned to home countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, had led to labour shortages. 

Meanwhile, supply constraints due to the shortage of HGV drivers mean retailers have had to reduce the amount of pork products they sell, or turn to EU suppliers to cope with UK supply chain bottlenecks.

Davies said the government needed to put butchers on the occupational shortages lists in order to address the short-term challenges facing the sector.

She called for the government to facilitate access to skilled labour from around the world to give the industry time to source, train and increase the percentage of UK workers.

"It is a travesty that this is happening because there are solutions that are within the government's grasp,” she said. "We cannot understand why they are not listening.

"If we end up having to import more rather than being able to bolster our own production, how ironic is that?" 

The meat industry has been under increasing pressure in recent weeks, impacting supermarkets and fast food chains. 

Nandos announced it was shutting 10% of UK stores because its supply chain was "having a 'mare" and was unable to get chicken to all restaurants. 

KFC told customers to expect disruptions to menus after it was hit by shortages. 

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers warned customers to expect disruptions this Christmas if the issues aren't resolved.

The trade body said a shortfall of 14,000 workers in the meat industry meant Christmas items such as turkey and pigs in blankets could be in short supply with higher prices.

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