There have been warnings that up to 150,000 pigs could be destroyed as waste as a shortage of labour in meat processing has triggered a backlog of animals ready for slaughter. The newly-announced measures from the Government will see up to 800 pork butchers being eligible to apply for the short-term visas from the existing allocation in the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme up until December 31.
This in addition to foreign butchers already being able since last December to apply to come to the UK through the existing skilled worker route.
Under the plans, there will also be funding provided for more meat storage in England, a move to introduce processing of animals on Saturdays the possibility for longer working hours.
The private storage aid system will allow meat processors to store slaughtered pigs for three to six months, meaning they can be preserved and processed at a later date.
Mr Johnson’s Government has acknowledged the pig industry has been facing challenges as a result of the continued Covid pandemic and the temporary suspension of approval to export to China for some UK pork establishments.
They added these issues have led to a backlog of pigs awaiting slaughter.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “A unique range of pressures on the pig sector over recent months such as the impacts of the pandemic and its effect on export markets have led to the temporary package of measures we are announcing today.
“This is the result of close working with industry to understand how we can support them through this challenging time.”
National Farming Union vice president Tom Bradshaw described the latest visa announcement as a “step in the right direction”.
He told Times Radio: “We really welcome the recognition of how serious the issue is.
“The 800 visas is a step in the right direction that will really help to get things back on track.
“And I guess, for us now, the critical thing is how quickly can we get those butchers over here?”
Mr Bradshaw added: “I’m pleased that however challenging its been, we know George Eustice has really been fighting the corner for the industry.
“He’s managed to get this over the line.
“We just now need to implement it, as I say, as quickly as possible. There can’t be any delays in getting those visas out.”
A spokesperson for the National Pig Association said: “We are so very relieved that the Government has finally released some measures aimed at reducing the significant pig backlog on farms.
“We are working with the processors to understand the impact of these new measures and to determine exactly what will happen now, and how quickly, so that we can give pig farmers some hope and stem the flow of healthy pigs currently having to be culled on farms.”
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