Written evidence submitted by Anonymous A1 (LS0062)
16th November, 2021
I would just like to say ‘thank you’ for your help throughout the formal meeting of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in Parliament titled ‘labour shortages in the food and farming sector’ that took place this afternoon
My family and I are pig farmers in [England] and are fighting very hard to survive. The shortage of butchers in the processing plants is obviously having a massive impact on our business and we strongly believe that this is through no fault of our own. To liken this commercial situation to ‘losing a field full of corn to an aphid infestation’ is damn right ridiculous! We supply to a processor a set number of pigs every week on a contract. It is the processors job to sell the product they buy and deal with the consequences once the pig has left the farm and they knew their reliance on China, the fact that [around half to three quarters] of their workforce was Eastern European and that productivity across the world has been rising! They still issued us with our contact for [around a thousand] pigs every week. In addition to this they (the processors) have a lot of their own pigs and I believe on the back of the China demand have been very busy increasing their own herds to fulfil this demand. Again, despite all of this they still issued us with the contact.
We have had our weekly kill numbers cut by [about a quarter] for the past 19 weeks. We didn’t have any warning this was happening, literally a text message came through the week before to say unfortunately they would not taking our contract number next week! We have throughout, had very little communication with the processor other than our weekly text to say ‘sorry you can’t have all your contract numbers in this week’ and believe you me, we have tried to communicate with them. We cannot run a business like this. There is no end to this situation in sight. We have asked for a forecast and it falls on deaf ears.
This crisis is like no other the pig industry has had to endure and is not our fault! It angers me immensely that the Secretary of State puts us in the same bracket as the processor and retailers (who I might add guarantee their margins at all times and will still come through this without losing a penny) whilst we face financial ruin through no fault of our own. Our supply chain is completely broken but we as farmers should not be the ones left to pick up the pieces of utter miss management higher up the chain.
Pig production is a long term commitment. At any one time we have ten to twelve months worth of pigs already in the pipeline. We have always thought that a rolling 12 month contract was essential for our business, as if the processor no longer wanted our product we had twelve months to either find a new buyer or stop serving our animals which would then ensure we didn’t produce a pig without a market. The processor is very powerful and as farmers we have to be very careful that we don’t shout too loudly about this situation in fear having all our pigs turned away at the abattoir. They set the price and control the movements. It would appear that our contracts are truly worthless!
If I hear once more that food security is top of the agenda I think I might explode. When will the message get through that unless something happens tomorrow – it should have been months ago, there will not be any independent pig producers left in this country!
Please, please, please keep fighting our corner for us. This whole situation is very depressing and stressful emotionally and financially and we need someone to help us get our voices heard. We farm pigs to feed people and the prospect of having to kill healthy pigs on farm is totally disgusting. We are just about to undergo training to kill these pigs (we are trained to kill ill, diseased pigs but not allowed obviously to kill healthy pigs). This whole process makes me feel physically sick and I would welcome you to ask The Secretary of State if he would be happy to come and witness a cull on farm of pigs that should have gone into the food chain that we have nurtured and looked after as good farmers. The whole situation is a disgrace.
Thank you for your time, we would welcome you to come and look round our farm at any time and would appreciate a reply,