Pork industry ‘relieved’ as extra visas granted to foreign butchers

The government announced extra visas following warnings that up to 150,000 pigs could be killed as ‘waste’

There is “relief all round” in the pork industry after the Government announced an extra 800 visas for foreign butchers.

The sector has called for more action to solve the problem of labour shortages long-term.

Experts have attributed staff shortages in the industry to an “inherent lack of interest” from UK workers as it struggles to attract new recruits, they continued that many people find it “off-putting”.

The Government announced the extra visas on Thursday following warnings that up to 150,000 pigs could be killed as “waste” due to an increasing backlog of animals ready to be slaughtered.

Overseas pork butchers will be eligible to apply for six-month visas from the existing allocation in the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme up until December 31.

Mike Sheldon, pork sector board chair of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Mike Sheldon, said the additional workers will make a “significant difference” to stretched workforces.

He continued: “It’s caused relief all round. I don’t think you’ll find any negative comment about it from within the industry at all.

“The situation was getting very real and very serious so we are relieved.

 

by George McMillan / GB News

Overseas butchers and abattoir workers to be granted six-month worker visas

Butchers and abattoir workers from overseas will be granted seasonal worker visas to deal with the backlog of pigs that need to be slaughtered, the government has announced.

Agriculture Secretary George Eustice said about 800 pig butchers from overseas are needed to avoid a mass cull of up to 150,000 of the animals.

It will only be temporary and is in addition to foreign butchers already being eligible, since December 2020, to apply to come to the UK through the existing skilled worker route.

Mr Eustice also announced that abattoirs will be offered private storage aid (PSA) so they can temporarily store pork before going to market to clear the backlog.

Sales of red meat and dairy continue to rise

Sales of red meat and dairy continue to rise amid heightened public support for local and sustainable produce, figures show.

Sales of red meat were up 7% in the 12 weeks ending 3 July 2021 compared to the same period pre-Covid in 2019.

This increase was largely driven by sales of beef, according to figures published by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Figures looking at the month August showed significant growth for meat, particularly sausages and fresh beef, up £5m and £1.7m respectively.

This comes alongside news that sales of dairy in the UK have also increased for the second year in a row.

 

According to figures by the AHDB, sales of cow’s milk increased by 4.2% while cheese is up 4.5% on the previous year.

Responding to the figures, NFU Scotland said demand for quality British produce remained high, and farmers were working hard to supply it.

President Martin Kennedy said: “In these well documented, challenging times for all, it is extremely encouraging and appreciated that there is a demand.

“We as an industry have much to be proud of, with our high environmental and animal welfare standards, and I want to thank the public for their support.

 

by Farming UK

Asda fulfils promise to source 100% British beef

The National Beef Association (NBA) has congratulated Asda on fulfilling its commitment to supply 100 per cent British beef on its fresh meat counters.

In an open letter to the joint owner of Asda, Mr Mohsin Issa, NBA chief executive Neil Shand referred to a letter sent to Asda in 2020 before Mr Issa’s acquisition of the supermarket chain.

The NBA had questioned the decision to stock imported beef from Poland during the pandemic.

In the letter, Mr Shand said: “At the start of the pandemic last year, ahead of your acquisition of Asda stores, we rather publicly challenged the decision to fill your shelves with Polish mince.

“Whilst we understood the pressure to stock your shelves, this happened at a time when the farmgate price in the UK was at rock bottom and, in many cases, below the cost of production.”

But he said it was now fitting to acknowledge their support for UK beef producers.

In September 2020, the Issa brothers made a commitment to source 100 per cent British beef by the beginning of October 2021.

 

by Alex Black / Farmers Guardian

Government announces new agreement to ensure CO2 supplies

The Government has reached an agreement with the CO2 industry to ensure continuing supplies to UK businesses, including those in the food processing sector.

CO2 suppliers have agreed to pay CF Fertilisers a price for the CO2 it produces that will enable it to continue operating while global gas prices remain high, drawing on support from industry and delivering value for money for the taxpayer, the Government said.

Two plants, owned by CF Industries, produce 60% of the UK’s CO2 and the shut down in September, caused by soaring gas prices, threatened to cause havoc in the pork supply chain, compounding the already dire situation caused by staff shortages. CO2 is used to stun pigs in most large abattoirs.

After days of uncertainty in September, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced he had reached a deal with CF Industries, involving tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer-funded support for three weeks, to get the plants up and running again. The announcement came just days before some major UK pork plants were due to run out.

BMPA chief executive Nick Allen described the deal as as a ‘huge short-term relief’. But, commenting in early October, he told Pig World that we were still ‘not out of the woods yet’.

But an agreement has now been reached in a rare piece of good news for the pig sector at this time. This price for CO2 reflects the vital importance of this material to everything from our nuclear industry to hospitals to the food and beverage industry, the Government said.

 

by Alistair Driver / Pig World

Covid continues to limit EU beef production

Trade friction between the EU and UK is a key theme of the latest EU short-term outlook. Beef production within the EU is forecast to contract marginally, reflecting a reduction in both the suckler and dairy herds. Food service demand for beef has reduced.

Ireland is the main driver of this drop with the kill brought forwards from 2021 into the final months of 2020 in anticipation of friction. Production in Denmark has also declined, reflecting a reduction in the cow herd, Covid-19 regulations, and lower food service demand. An increase in Spanish production has partially offset these declines.

Exports of beef from the bloc dropped in the first half of the year, largely due to the trade friction between the EU and UK. Imports have also declined, driven by the short supply of beef on the world market and the closure of the EU food service sector. Volumes traded are expected to increase in 2022 as food service reopens and tourism increases.

 

by Rebecca Wright / AHDB

GB pig prices – partial recovery for SPP

AHDB Pork’s weekly pig prices, slaughter data and commentary for Great Britain.

The EU-spec SPP moved back up in the week ended October 9, reaching 151.01p/kg. This was over 2p higher than the previous week, although prices remained a little below the 5-year average for the time of year.

The uplift in prices comes as estimated throughput dropped back once again. GB slaughter during the week was estimated as 182,300 head, well below last week and 2% below this time last year.

Last week, reports indicated throughput was supported by some extra batches of low-priced pigs, intended for markets where only minimal butchery is required. There were fewer of these pigs in the sample this week. While this means the average price paid for pigs overall was higher, making progress on the backlog clearly remains very difficult.

EU prices also remain low, which represents a challenge to the price-competitiveness of British pork. Altogether, despite the fluctuation in the SPP this week, further downward pressure can be expected.

Carcase weights remained high, averaging 90.65kg. However, this is about 300g lower than the week before.

The EU-spec APP for the week ended October 2 saw a significant decline, but not as large as the SPP for the same week. At 156.00p/kg, the average was 2.95p down on the week and broadly in line with the five-year average for the time of year.

The gap between the two price series widened to 7.18p, which is the largest difference since the series began.

 

Pig World

‘Food is too cheap’ – 2 Sisters president

Ranjit Singh Boparan said the days of feeding a family of four with a £3 chicken were coming to an end.

Consumers are facing a ‘great food reset’ with less choice and higher prices.

That was the message from 2 Sisters founder and President Ranjit Singh Boparan as he questioned how it could be right for a whole chicken to cost less than a price of beer.

He said rampant inflation and the labour crisis would ultimately result in higher prices.

Mr Boparan said: “The days when you could feed a family of four with a £3 chicken are coming to an end. We need transparent, honest pricing.

“This is a reset and we need to spell out what this will mean. Food is too cheap, there’s no point avoiding the issue.

“In relative terms, a chicken today is cheaper to buy than it was 20 years ago. How can it be right that a whole chicken costs less than a pint of beer? You are looking at a different world from now on where the shopper pays more.”

He said he had been vocal about the Government needing to help with labour issues.

 

by Alex Black / Farmers Guardian

Meat processor flying in Irish staff to keep kill lines going

A major meat processor has resorted to flying in Irish staff on a weekly basis to keep killing lines operational, amid serious labour shortages.

Others have been forced to sacrifice lamb lines in a bid to keep beef ones open, or have had to send carcases to Ireland for processing before bringing them back to the UK for sale, according to NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay.

Speaking at the first in-person NFU council meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic, he said: “They are managing on a wing and a prayer to keep going.”

Mr Findlay added the industry was currently ‘on a knife edge’, with plants operating at 15-20 per cent below capacity and margins for farmers low.

“It is a huge disappointment, as demand is there but the labour is not,” he said.

“It is a missed opportunity for the beef sector.”

 

by Hannah Binns / Farmers Guardian

Scots company to ease food industry reliance on CO2 from fertiliser production

A new source of food grade carbon dioxide (CO2) is due to come on stream as soon as this weekend, thanks to the initiative shown by brothers Richard and Ed Nimmons.

Their Dry Ice Scotland company has attracted £4.5m of investment to allow it to refine gas already produced as part of the anaerobic digestion process.

This means that instead of the food industry relying on production from a few giant fertiliser plants, it will be able to source locally-produced gas from an agricultural process.

CO2 is used by abattoirs to stun pigs and poultry, as well as in food packaging to maximise products’ shelf-life and for the brewing of beer.

The Nimmons brothers are to start production on a site at Castle Douglas, adjacent to an existing anaerobic digester, with gas piped to their plant which will capture the CO2 and separate it from the methane, which is the main gas produced.

It is believed to be the first operational carbon capture and CO2 recovery facility in the world.

Richard Nimmons, age 36, and his brother Ed, age 35, set up their Dry Ice Scotland business in 2012 and became heavily involved in dry ice blasting, a technique used to clean North Sea oil and gas components.

 

 

By Ewan Pate / Farmers Guardian