A shortage of butchers at industrial slaughterhouses in the UK has led to warnings that 10,000 pigs could have to be killed a week
The UK government is expected to back down today in a row over visas for foreign butchers in order to prevent a mass cull of British pigs.
A shortage of butchers at industrial slaughterhouses in the UK has left many of the nation’s farmers with too many pigs on their farms, leading to many warnings that 10,000 pigs a week could have to be destroyed.
It is understood that the government will be announcing a new set of measures, thought to be including the dropping of a requirement for fluent English, in order to allow more trained butchers to come into the UK on temporary visas.
The move follows a meeting between farmers, processors, and the government’s recently appointed supply chain advisor Sir Dave Lewis, on Monday.
The National Pig Association (NPA), which represents the majority of the farmers that are affected, said that it was “quietly optimistic” and that the requirement for foreign butchers to be fluent in English was “the final blocker”.
This comes after the boss of Arla Foods, the country’s biggest dairy supplier, has revealed that it is facing inflation pressures from higher energy. Ash Amirahmadi, the managing director of Arla Foods, also spoke about the concern caused by driver shortages.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “It is not wages because they are over the £25,000 threshold. It is coming down now to the English level requirement and the bureaucracy of the process in terms of applying for these visas.”
Pig farmers are hoping that the government will trigger a little-used emergency cold storage scheme in order to store pig carcases.
One option discussed at the meeting with Sir Dave on Monday was the taxpayer-funded market intervention scheme that is known as Private Storage Aid (PSA), which unlocks funding for slaughtered pigs to be kept in private cold stores.
Both farmers and processors pushed for the scheme to be used in order to help relieve pressure within the industry, at least until a relaxed visa system increases the number of butchers working in the major abattoirs.
According to the DEFRA website, the PSA scheme had been designed to help stabilise the costs of agricultural products.
“When PSA is opened, you will be invited to remove your own product from the market and place it into your own store for a specified period of time. You will retain ownership of the product during the storage period,” the website says.
The scheme is operated by the Rural Payments Agency to “offer financial support at times when prices of certain products on the marketplace are low.”
This comes after The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said that job vacancies within the UK hit 1.1 million between the months of July and September, the highest level since records had began back in 2001.
Earlier this month UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to play down the prospect of a mass pig cull, saying that the pigs would be killed anyway.
“There is a question about the types of job that are being done, the pay that is being offered, the levels of automation, the levels of investment in those jobs,” he said.
“What we can’t do in all these sectors is go back to the tired old model, and reach for the lever called uncontrolled immigration, and get people in at low wages.”
The shortage of butchers in the UK affects around 1,400 farms that supply 90% of British pork through contracts with major processors.