The current deal, struck when the UK voted to leave the European Union, needs to be overhauled and replaced with a fairer and more efficient agreement, German agriculture publication Agrarheute admits. Farmers’ associations in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are calling for more fair relations with the EU as the industry battles a myriad of problems. Pig farmers have been struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic which has disrupted supply lines and reduced capacity in slaughterhouses.
There has also been a string of pork plant closures and the suspension of exports to China from some plants.
To make matters worse, the industry has faced an exodus of workers as a result of the pandemic and Brexit, which saw many foreign workers returning to their home countries.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The issue is that because, for whatever reason, a lot of workers have left processing plants and gone home because a lot of them are eastern European.
“The abattoirs themselves cannot process the number of pigs that we supply them with on a weekly basis.
“So for the last six to eight weeks, all of the major processers have been cutting their kills by up to 25 percent, which is leading to pigs being kept on farms for far longer than they should be.
“And that is leading to an absolute crisis for us on the pig side.”
According to official figures, pig farmers in the UK have been forced to cull around 16,000 animals as a result of these compounding factors.
But this number could be even higher due to unreported cases, the specialist magazine Farming UK and the National Pig Association (NPA) has claimed.
The Government has released a support package including 800 visas for foreign workers, aid for private storage and incentives for slaughterhouses but farmers insist a more efficient system is also needed.
German publication Agrarheute notes: “In the past week, the situation of British pig farmers has deteriorated overall.
“In order to create prospects for the agricultural sector, the British farmers’ associations are calling for a fresh start in the relationship with the EU.”
The farmers’ associations now want to make the 70,000 British farmers more present in the Union which they have previously been marginalised.
The associations in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales released a joint statement explaining that they would be revitalising the British Agriculture Bureau (BAB) in a bid to stand up for British farmers.
They highlighted the importance of cooperation between all European farmers in a report published on Friday December 3 which promotes their vision for a more balanced relationship with Europe.
A key objective of the new relationship is to open up new trade opportunities while defending high British standards.
To make this a reality, the BAB suggests they should be responsible for dealing with trade and standards, science and innovation, the environment and animal health and welfare.
Furthermore, a strong, competitive agricultural economy must be supported by British trade policy.
The report also states that moving forward, British farmers want to improve productivity, conserve resources and reduce the ecological footprint of agriculture.
Additional reporting Monika Pallenberg