Farms face backlog of pigs as Brexit red tape hits exports

Rob Mutimer at Swannington Farm to Fork. Picture: Denise Bradley

Rob Mutimer of Swannington Farm to Fork says a backlog of sows is building up on Norfolk pig farms due to post-Brexit export red tape - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

A backlog of pigs is building up on East Anglia's farms as a post-Brexit "bureaucracy overload" brings part of the pork export trade to a standstill.

The National Pig Association (NPA) says, despite the trade deal agreed between the EU and UK on Christmas Eve, the end of the Brexit transition was always expected to bring additional checks, labelling and certification requirements.

But it says the "excessive" extra paperwork has led to perishable products being delayed at Channel ports, forcing European buyers to reject shipments and cancel future orders.

Norfolk pig farmer Rob Mutimer is managing director of Swannington Farm to Fork near Reepham and vice chairman of the NPA.

He said the cull sow trade - whose main customers are in Germany for cured meat and salami - was particularly badly affected as UK slaughterhouses are currently not buying former breeding sows due to fears over the cost of sending shipments which could be rejected.

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"I have got 50 animals on the farm that should have been culled because they have come to the end of their breeding life, but they cannot go anywhere because the exporters of sow meat have not been able to get their product over to factories in Germany," he said.

"Every breeding herd in the country will have the same problem. They want to sell their sows quickly but now they are paying extra to feed them, and bedding is in short supply.

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"There is no market for them in this country. UK supermarkets don't have sow meat in their sausages. It all goes to Germany for salami and cured meats.

"It is a well-established market and we are very worried that we have been squeezed out of this market due to bureaucracy and will it still be there if we don't sort this out quickly? 

"We all knew there would be more red tape, but the border paperwork is so onerous. It is 72 pages to get a load through to the customer in Germany. 

"It is solvable. The government is doing a good job in opening up our ports to bring products into this country to keep the supermarket shelves stocked, but we want them to put more pressure on the continental people to get the ports moving at their end."

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said this "bureaucracy overload" had exacerbated problems caused by Covid-19 outbreaks at meat processing plants which had been "unable to process pigs at the usual rate, meaning pigs are already staying on farms longer than they otherwise would.”

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