Pig farmers in Scotland and England are being given a holiday from paying their statutory levy in November.
Levy bodies the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) said pig producers will not be asked to pay a levy next month in response to the continued build-up of pigs on farms, falling prices and high production costs.
The organisations said the levy holiday, which is worth just under £1 million to pig producers in England and Scotland, follows discussions with government and industry to identify ways to help pig producers during a difficult time.
“After discussions between the QMS board and AHDB the decision was made to introduce a levy holiday in November for pig producers,” said QMS chairwoman, Kate Rowell.
“The pig sector plays an important role in Scotland’s agricultural industry and this relief will help support producers as they work tirelessly to look after the animals in their care.”
Rural Affairs Secretary, Mairi Gougeon, said: “As they move into one of their busiest months of the year, the levy holiday in Scotland and England provided by QMS and AHDB will be a welcome measure to those in the pig sector, especially in light of the issues they have been facing over the past month.
“This helpful move will not solve any of the issues but will be of some assistance to the sector.”
AHDB pork sector board chairman, Mike Sheldon, said the challenges facing the pig sector were extremely concerning and required industry-wide action.
He added: “AHDB is already undertaking work to help the sector, including providing independent evidence to Government setting out the seriousness of the situation, and looking at how together we can support meat processors to ease the supply of labour.”
The ongoing pig crisis, caused by a lack of labour in abattoirs and processing plants, has been widely publicised in recent weeks with the National Pig Association (NPA) warning more than 120,000 pigs could be culled and destroyed.
Gordon MP Richard Thomson is the latest Scottish politician to call on the prime minister to intervene – it follows calls for financial support for affected pig farmers by Angus MP Dave Doogan.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, Mr Thomson said: “I strongly urge you, even at this late stage, to urgently reconsider the stance the UK Government has taken on these matters and to meaningfully engage with industry bodies to ensure jobs are protected, businesses survive, and a mass cull of healthy animals can be avoided, particularly at a time when too many are going short of food.
“An apology for your exceedingly crass comments regarding the possibility of a mass cull of pigs would also be appropriate in the circumstances.”