Reuters reports that Britain’s pig farmers have warned of a pork crisis. They say the government urgently must ease an acute shortage of abattoir workers and butchers that has left up to 150,000 pigs backed up on farms and facing a costly cull.
Brexit and the pandemic have combined this year to leave deep labour shortages across the British economy, with a dearth of drivers disrupting fuel and supermarket supplies.
In the food sector, a sudden exodus of eastern European workers after Covid-19 lockdowns eased has left many pig farmers fighting for survival, and on Friday they urged retailers not to turn to cheaper European Union pork.
The National Pig Association said the industry was hiking wages and trying to increase training and automation to help fix an industry that has always struggled for labour.
In the meantime, however, farmers face an acute shortage of butchers and slaughterers, leaving up to 150,000 pigs which should have already been slaughtered still on farms.
The UK association, which urged the government to ease immigration rules for six to nine months to tide the industry over, said talks with the government had reached an impasse.
Rob Mutimer, chairman of the association and a farmer in Norfolk, told Reuters, “The whole food sector just cannot cope with such an enormous short term loss in labour,” he said.
“Yes the industry needs to train English people, and it needs to become more automated, we know that, and it’s happening, there’s massive investment going into these facilities to reduce the dependence on foreign labour.”
Mutimer said some factories were increasing wages by 15 per cent. “This is crucifying my finances because the food cost of feeding these extra pigs is horrendous, cash flow of not selling enough pigs is horrendous and on top of that pigs were in a position where they weren’t making money anyway,” he said.