Ex-farm beef, lamb and even milk prices have remained relatively buoyant over the past year, however, a pig crisis is emerging and looks set to continue for the foreseeable future when the UK Government refuses to acknowledge the need for European labour.

Add on the industry's soaring costs of production which at 182p per kg reached a record high in the second quarter of 2021 which in turn was up a further 8p on the previous high of 174p in the first quarter, according to AHDB, and there is a white flag flying on most pig finishing units.

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Ever increasing feed prices over the past year, mean that production costs are 27p per kg higher compared to the same time in 2021, while labour and fixed costs have also increased compared to the first quarter of 2021.

Worse still is the fact that prices are 13p per kg lower, with net margins in the second quarter of 2021 standing at -28p/kg, or -£24 per head, which is similar to the first quarter.

It therefore comes as no surprise that the industry is already haemorrhaging fast, which coupled with an shortage of processing staff means that pigs are having to remain on farm for longer adding even more costs to the equation.

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And, with reduced slaughterings, pigs are getting heavier, with the latest market data revealing average carcase weights of 88.40kg – 1.19kg heavier than the previous week and 3.2kg more than the same week in 2020. There were also 24,000 fewer pigs slaughtered compared to the same week, last year,

Andy McGowan, managing director of Scottish Pig Producers based in Aberdeenshire, said the situation was "pretty grim," with a number of mixed farms in the area already out of pigs.

"There are more and more people talking about leaving the industry and these are not empty threats," he said.

"We have just waded through all the difficult issues we had in the first half of year with the shut down of the plant at Brechin for two days a week, and it looks as if we're heading for much the same again.

"Feed prices are not going to come down significantly, and in the meantime we have so many issues of how to get pigs away to be slaughtered when they are ready to go because there is not the labour to transport them, or the staff in the processing units to butcher them.

"There is plenty of demand for pig meat, the problem is, the processors are unable to supply it to the supermarkets due to the shortage of available labour."

He added that there are real structural problems in all industry that relies on foreign labour, which the UK Government is ignoring and appears to be happier importing cheap food rather than the address the issues on its doorstep.

"In the medium to long-term, food prices will have to go up when there is such a shortage of labour which ultimately will mean the cost of labour will have to increase and will then be passed onto price of food. Either that or more food is imported which does seem to be this government is taking agriculture when the requirement for import health certificates is continually delayed."

Mr McGowan added: "It is a very difficult time and not easy for any pig producer in the UK, but it is mostly a supply issue, which because the processors can't meet the demand from the supermarkets, is a real get out clause for more meat to be imported."

With a growing backlog of pigs on farms, the National Pig Association has estimated there are an additional 85,000 – a number that is increasing by approximately 15,000 per week and all require extra housing and feed

It is already estimated that the national sow herd has lost 22,000 head this year (5% of the national herd) and there are a lot more in the pipeline ready to go, but unable to be taken.

AHDB Bethan Wilkins added: "The latest estimates paint a picture of finances that will be difficult for British pig producers to sustain for long."

The EU-spec APP averages 165p/kg from the start of July to mid-August, which is higher than the Q2 average, but prices are now on a downward trend.

"Low EU prices and a more challenging Asian export market may mean this trend stays in place for the coming weekk

"At the same time, it seems feed markets have remained strong. As such, the outlook for British pork producers remains difficult."