Pig sector urges retailers to copy Waitrose’s price pledge

The pig sector has urged UK retailers to follow Waitrose after it made a fresh pledge to pay farmers a fair price during the backlog crisis.

Waitrose said it would be extending its commitment to pay a ‘fair and sustainable’ minimum price for pork to all of its pig producers.

The pledge has been made as prices continue to plummet, alongside record costs of production and an on-farm backlog of approximately 200,000 pigs.

The sector has faced a range of challenges, including the loss of exports to the Chinese market for certain pig processors, global disruption to CO2 supplies, and crippling labour shortages.

Waitrose’s move extends its previous commitment announced in November 2021, which it agreed to review on a regular basis.

Announcing the price pledge, the retailer warned the pig sector was facing ‘the biggest crisis in a generation’, with ‘falling prices impacting financial sustainability’.

 

 

by FarmingUK

Waitrose pledges renewed support for troubled pig sector

The move comes amid growing concerns over the pig sector, which is facing the biggest crisis it has seen in a generation.

The current estimate is that around 200,000 pigs are backed up on farms across the country due to a lack of labour in processing plants.

The sector is also facing falling prices impacting its financial sustainability, as well as global disruption to CO2 supplies.

In response, Waitrose said it would be extending its pledge to pay a “fair and sustainable, minimum price for pork to all of our dedicated farmers – even if prices continue to fall.”

Jake Pickering, senior agriculture manager for the supermarket said: “We need to support our farmers before it’s too late to save their bacon.

“They kept food on our tables through the pandemic, and we need to help them through their tough times too.

“By guaranteeing a base price for pork, we’re protecting farmers for the months ahead and allowing them to plan for a long-term, sustainable future.”

 

 

by FarmingUK

 

Summit held to address ‘desperate’ crisis facing pig industry

Pig farmers are in a “desperate” position – with culls of thousands of healthy animals and producers quitting the industry, they warned as a summit was held on the crisis.

Farmers demonstrated outside a meeting in York on Thursday as industry representatives met with the Environment Department (Defra) about the problems facing the pig production sector.

The National Pig Association (NPA) said the backlog of pigs ready for processing, which are having to be held on farms because of a shortage of butchers, is now estimated at more than 200,000 animals.

The industry body said it knew of 35,000 healthy pigs which have been culled on farms as a result of the backlog, although this is likely to be an underestimate, and 40 independent producers have recently left the sector.

Producers are being hit by shortages in EU workers, caused by Brexit and the pandemic, to process their pigs and by high costs of feed for animals that are having to be kept on farms for longer before being sent to abattoirs.

Healthy pigs are being culled by farmers who have run out of space, creating food waste, while producers are also being penalised for overweight animals processed late, the NPA said.

As the NPA and National Farmers’ Union (NFU) held an emergency summit with Defra, attended by representatives from major retailers and pork processors, farmers warned the meeting was vital to the industry.

 

 

 

By Emily Beament / Evening Standard

Brechin abattoir takeover boosts pig sector confidence.

The cloud of uncertainty hanging over the future of Scottish pig processing has been lifted following the purchase of Brechin abattoir by Browns Food Group.

The specialist pig slaughterhouse, which employs around 100 staff, has been owned by Quality Pork Ltd (QPL), in a close collaboration between the two farmer cooperatives, Scottish Pig Producers (SPP) and Scotlean, together with Pilgrim’s Pride UK.

However, Pilgrim’s, which has been the sole customer for the pigmeat processed at Brechin, gave notice last year that the arrangement was “unsustainable” following a downturn in the pig industry and the abattoir’s loss of a valuable Chinese export licence after an outbreak of Covid at the plant.

That licence has not been reinstated by China despite the plant getting the all-clear by public health authorities a few weeks after the outbreak, and it is generally believed this is related to ongoing political tensions between China and the UK.

In a statement Dumfriesshire-based Browns said: “This is an exciting new development for both companies which will ensure a promising future for Scottish pork while supporting the existing established markets.”

SPP chief executive Andy McGowan said the new arrangement would mean business as usual for Scottish pig farmers who are currently supplying the plant with around 4000 pigs per week.

“The announcement lifts the question marks surrounding the future of the site  and brings about simplicity,” he said.

 

 

 

Defra agrees to urgent summit with pig sector as crisis deepens

The government has agreed to convene an emergency summit of the entire pig supply chain as the sector’s crisis deepens.

Defra farming minister Victoria Prentis today agreed to the joint National Pig Association (NPA) and NFU request for a roundtable event amid a worsening crisis.

It comes as the pig backlog is now estimated to be well in excess of 170,000 due to a lack of butchers in pork processing plants, as a result of the pandemic and Brexit.

Tens of thousands of healthy pigs have been culled on farms across the country by increasingly desperate producers who have run out of space.

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer and NFU president Minette Batters wrote to Defra last week, calling for it to “arrange a summit of the entire pig supply chain so that we can agree a plan to get these pigs off farms and onto people’s plates”.

Responding, Mrs Prentis agreed that “convening a roundtable bringing together producers, processors, and retailers to discuss the ongoing challenges faced by the sector would be helpful”. The date will be arranged ‘shortly’.

She acknowledged that recruitment of butchers via the temporary visa route, which closed to applications on 31 December, had ‘taken longer than initially expected’.

But she said that processors could still recruit butchers via the UK’s new points-based immigration system, which was introduced last month.

The Defra minister also acknowledged that uptake of both the Private Storage Aid (PSA)and Slaughter Incentive Payment (SIP) schemes had been lower than anticipated.

 

 

 

by Farming UK

Eustice puts pig crisis onus on processors

Defra Secretary George Eustice has told a committee of MPs that the Government is ‘limited’ in what it can do to support pig producers during their time of crisis.

Instead, Mr Eustice put the onus very much on pork processors to do more to increase their throughput and reduce the backlog on farms, at one point appearing to suggest this should include paying farmers less to speed up the process of getting pigs through plants.

However, while he offered little prospect of any short-term Government help for the industry, Mr Eustice reiterated that Defra is looking to introduce new legislation in the future to ensure a more functional and fairer pig supply chain.

Mr Eustice was questioned on the pig crisis by Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee chairman Neil Parish and other MPs at the end of a long and wide-ranging session on Tuesday covering his and Defra’s work.

‘Sheer waste of food’

Mr Parish quoted a Yorkshire pig farmer, who had told him pigs are being culled on her farm ‘as we speak’, as the impact of pigs being held on farm for longer due to processing delays takes its toll. “There are animal welfare issues of this and it’s a sheer waste of food,” Mr Parish said, before asking the Defra Secretary what more could be done to get pigs ‘properly processed and the animal welfare issues solved’.

Mr Eustice acknowledged that the situation was ‘quite difficult’, but went on to explain how the industry’s ‘asks’ that the Government had delivered in its October support package had not been utilised by processors.

The ‘bespoke’ temporary visa scheme for pigs that was delivered despite being a departure from Government policy ‘hasn’t been used as much as we’d hoped’, he said. “There was a provision for about 800, but I think it will be in the low hundreds for the numbers that they actually bring in under that scheme.

“Some of the processors have used the skilled route to bring some butchers in from some areas, but they’ve not they’ve not been recruiting in the way we thought they might, given the labour shortage was one of the key issues they kept highlighting.

 

Alistair Driver / Pig World

Butcher shortage leaves pigs stuck on farms

A shortage of butchers means thousands of pigs otherwise ready for slaughter are stuck on farms across Britain.

Meat specialist Cranswick is talking to the government about special waivers to get more butchers and slaughterhouse workers into Britain to deal with the problem.

CEO Adam Couch estimated that between 300 and 400 workers are needed to ease pressure in the industry. The “backlog” of pigs is put in the thousands, though Couch said it was tough to put precise numbers on it.

The meat industry has had a tough few years due to the loss of skilled labourers post-Brexit and the temporary shutdown of many processing plants due to Covid outbreaks.

Couch said: “It’s a perfect storm: you’ve got post-pandemic, you’ve got post-Brexit and then you’ve got a shortage of butchers.”

Cranswick is already working overtime to address the backlog of pigs, with its processing plants now running at weekends. A shortage of workers saw wage inflation hit 15% towards the end of 2021, Couch said, adding to costs.

The Cranswick boss is “pushing hard” for government support in bringing workers from the EU and further afield to address the problems. He is also asking for help on an issue with Chinese exports. The country has banned imports from Cranwick’s Norfolk facility after a Covid-19 outbreak there during the pandemic.

Asked if the government were receptive, Couch said: “We’re having to paddle our own canoe in some respects.”

 

 

Evening Standard

Reduced abattoir throughputs may impact future trading patterns

Reduced throughputs at UK abattoirs will have a knock-on impact on future trading patterns, industry chiefs have warned. 

It comes as tight supplies of cattle and sheep have supported the continuing trend of above-average market prices into the first month of 2022.

But last year saw cattle throughputs reach their lowest level since 2015 at 2.7 million head, a 5.7 per cent drop on 2020 and 4.3 per cent below the five year average, according to Defra figures.

Glesni Phillips, data analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), said the decrease in cattle throughput at UK abattoirs last year was not unexpected.

“Increased numbers were processed during 2020 and this led to fewer cattle on the ground,” she said.

“This was especially true for adult cattle which saw throughput fall by almost 6 per cent on the year.”

 

 

Hannah Binns / Farmers Guardian

Several countries ban pig meat imported from Italy following ASF cases

China, Japan, Taiwan, and Kuwait have all announced bans on pig meat imported from Italy after several cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) were reported in wild boar in the Piemonte region in Northern Italy.

The countries have reportedly blocked purchases of pork from Italy, whilst Switzerland has also introduced trade restrictions with Italy.

The news was announced on Wednesday by Confagricoltura, the confederation of Italian agriculture. Confagricoltura president Massimiliano Giansanti called for the “quick and effective” implementation of “surveillance and biosecurity measures for the protection of farms” as part of efforts to “limit the damage as much as possible.”

Italy has also announced a ban on hunting and several other outdoor activities in two northern regions affected by the outbreak.

 

 

by Iain Hoey / Pig World

108 companies have 25% of China’s sows

Just 108 companies now control a fourth of China’s swine production capacity, according to a list prepared for a recent swine industry forum. Unpredictable gyrations in China’s hog market continue with the influx of big pig farmers, contrary to the expectations of agricultural officials.

Pigs have historically been scattered across millions of backyard pens, sheds, and living rooms in Chinese villages. At the peak of backyard pig-farming, China’s 1997 agricultural census counted over 130 million rural households raising pigs–usually one or two at a time–and those small family holdings accounted for 95 percent of the swine inventory.

In recent years a handful of companies have been on a hog-farm construction binge. Their expansion accelerated during a 2014-17 environmental regulatory push that shut down hundreds of thousands of small farms. Then the African swine fever epidemic wiped out millions more of small farms, biosecurity requirements and a new round of subsidies favoured big companies, and “pig concept” stocks became fashionable, attracting billions of dollars of capital investment.

A list of 108 companies with at least 10,000 sows was compiled for the 7th China swine industry summit based on company financial reports, industry news, and unpublished sources. The combined sow inventory of the 108 companies as of October-November 2021 was 11.79 million head. That’s about a fourth of the 44.79-million-head national sow inventory reported by the China National Bureau of Statistics’ as of the end of September.

Muyuan Foods Group was the clear number-one company, with 2.7 million sows. Three other companies–Wens Foodstuff, New Hope-Liuhe, and Zhengbang Technology–were listed with 1 million or more sows. These top four companies had a combined 5.9 million sows. Another 15 companies had 100,000-400,000 sows each (3.2 million sows combined), 22 companies had 50,000-90,000 sows (1.4 million combined), and 67 companies had 10,000-40,000 sows (1.2 million combined).

Muyuan pulled ahead of the competition during the African swine fever crisis. A ranking from 2016 showed Wens produced more than 5 times as many hogs as Muyuan and Zhengbang, and a 2019 ranking still showed Wens in the top spot. Muyuan now has 2.7 million sows, more than double Wens’ 1.2 million.

For years Chinese agricultural officials have blamed small farmers for constant booms and busts in the hog industry–“blindly” expanding when prices are high and then killing off sows when prices drop. However, the influx of gigantic farms has perpetuated industry gyrations.

The report estimated that the current population of sows could produce 235.8 million finished hogs if each produced 20 marketed hogs per year. Hogs raised from a sow bred now would be ready for market in September 2022.

The report estimates that 150 companies had 10,000 sows at the beginning of the year, but the number dropped to 108 due to culling of unprofitable sows. The report estimates that the top 108 farms are operating at just two-thirds of their capacity–a third of barns and stalls are empty due to the crash in prices this year.

 

 

by Dim Sums