Farms seek £3.2m of Covid compensation for overweight pigs

Pigs on fields near Blythburgh

The National Pig Association is calling for £3.2m of compensation for farmers who lost money due to Covid-19 processing delays. - Credit: James Bass

The pig industry has called for a £3.2m government compensation package for farmers whose animals grew too fat when Covid-19 hit processing factories.

Earlier this year, there was an estimated backlog of more than 100,000 pigs on farms across the country, after a wave of coronavirus outbreaks at meat factories caused processing delays, coupled with export problems.

Although the crisis has since eased, some East Anglian farmers are still grappling with the financial impact of getting reduced prices for pigs which had grown beyond their specifications while being stranded on farms, generating increasingly expensive feed and straw bills.

The National Pig Association (NPA), alongside a submission from pork processors, has submitted a request to Defra for a £3.2m compensation package for producers that "reflects deductions for overweight pigs". It follows the announcement of similar schemes in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Norfolk farmer Rob Mutimer, managing director of Swannington Farm to Fork near Reepham, was recently appointed chairman of the NPA.

He said some producers had been severely affected after the pandemic caused staff shortages, delays and closures at processing factories and abattoirs.

"We are not looking to compensate the whole industry, we are just looking to get some targeted compensation for the producers that have really struggled, through no fault of their own, and through no fault of the processor," he said. "It [closing factories] was something that Public Health England needed to do to control Covid, but the knock-on effect has meant severe financial penalties for some farmers who had huge numbers of overweight pigs.

"Anything over 105kg was getting some quite severe penalties on some contracts. The cost of feed was sky-high and the return on some pigs was awful.

"It has not affected all pig farmers, it is very specific to some contracts. Some people will have had no effect whatsoever, but some businesses will have been very badly hit by this.

"Their cashflows will have taken an absolute pounding at the end of last year and the beginning of this year."

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NPA chief executive Zoe Davies added she was grateful that Defra was giving the funding appeal "serious consideration".

“The entire UK pig sector has been hit by this situation and, given that compensation has been paid to other sectors, such as dairy, we believe we have a very justifiable case,” she said.

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