Butchers and slaughterhouse workers from abroad will receive seasonal worker visas to handle the backlog of pigs to be slaughtered, the government has announced.
Agriculture Secretary George Eustice said about 800 pig butchers from abroad are needed to avoid a massacre of up to 150,000 of the animals.
He expects to see the butchers arrive in November, and they will be eligible to apply for a six-month visa from the existing allocation in the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme until December 31st.
It will only be temporary and is an addition to the fact that already since December 2020, foreign butchers are entitled to apply to come to the UK via the existing skilled route.
Eustice also announced that slaughterhouses will be offered private storage aid (PSA) so that they can temporarily store pork before entering the market to clean up the backlog.
PSA is a taxpayer-funded market intervention scheme that unlocks the financing of fattening pigs to be stored in private cold stores.
The government is also changing the rules on cabotage – loading and unloading of goods in one country – for EU truck drivers in the UK, so they can make as many trips as they want in a two-week period.
However, Mr Eustice said the requirement for butchers to master English fluently will not be dropped as expected.
The National Pig Association (NPA), which represents the majority of the farmers concerned, welcomed the intervention, even though it had said the requirement for butchers to speak English was “the last block”.
The announcement came after a meeting Monday between farmers, processors and the government’s newly appointed supply chain adviser Sir Dave Lewis.
A spokesman for the NPA said: “We are so relieved that the government has finally released some measures aimed at reducing the significant backlog of pigs on farms.
“We are working with 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,” which is currently to be towed. farms. “
Thousands of pigs have already been slaughtered and their bodies burned on farms across England, the NPA said Wednesday.
Lack of butchers, who have left farmers with too many pigs on their farms, led to warnings that 10,000 pigs a week should be destroyed.
The Secretary of Agriculture said the loss of staff from the pig industry “has nothing to do with Brexit”.
He said: “It’s a complex picture: there have been a lot of market disruptions, problems with access to the Chinese market, maybe some overproduction – here production has increased by about 7% – and yes, labor has been an aggravating factor, but it has not been the only factor.
“The pig industry and, like many parts of the food industry, have experienced a loss of staff like many of the EU citizens they trusted on the left during the pandemic – nothing to do with Brexit.
“They had the right to stay, but many of them chose to return to be with their families in a difficult time.
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The shortage of butchers affects around 1,400 farms, supplying 90% of British pork through contracts with major processors.