Butchers and slaughterhouse workers abroad will be granted seasonal worker visas to deal with the backlog of pigs that need to be slaughtered, the government said.
Agriculture Secretary George Eustice said about 800 overseas pig butchers are needed to prevent a mass slaughter of up to 150,000 animals.
He expects the butchers to arrive in November and they will be able to apply for six-month visas from the existing allowance in the seasonal worker pilot program until December 31.
This will only be temporary and is in addition to foreign butchers who are already eligible, as of December 2020, to apply to come to the UK via the existing Skilled Worker route.
Mr Eustice also announced that slaughterhouses will be offered Private Storage Aid (PSA) so that they can temporarily store pork before going to market to clear the backlog.
The PSA is a taxpayer-funded market intervention program that releases funds for slaughtered pigs that will be kept in private cold stores.
The government is also changing the rules regarding cabotage – the loading and unloading of goods in a country – for EU truck drivers in the UK so that they can make as many trips as they want on a two week period.
However, Mr Eustice said the requirement for butchers to be fluent in English will not be dropped, as expected.
The National Pig Association (NPA), which represents the majority of affected breeders, welcomed the intervention although it said that requiring butchers to speak English was “the last hurdle”.
The announcement came after a meeting Monday between farmers, processors and recently appointed government supply chain adviser Sir Dave Lewis.
A spokesperson for the NPA said: “We are so relieved that the government has finally released measures to reduce the large 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 currently need to be culled. firm. “
Thousands of pigs have already been slaughtered and their carcasses cremated on farms across England, the NPA said on Wednesday.
The shortage of butchers, which has left farmers with too many pigs on their farms, has led to warnings that 10,000 pigs per week should be destroyed.
The Agriculture Secretary said the loss of staff in the pig industry had “nothing to do with Brexit”.
He said: “It’s a complex picture: there has been a lot of market disruption, problems accessing the Chinese market, maybe overproduction – here production is up by around 7% – and yes, the workforce was an aggravating factor, but it was not the only factor.
“The pig industry and, like many sectors of the food industry, have seen their staff lose numbers as many EU citizens they relied on left during the pandemic – nothing to do with Brexit.
“They had the right to stay, but many of them chose to return to their families during a difficult time in the
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The butcher shortage affects around 1,400 farms which supply 90% of Britain’s pork through contracts with major processors.