UK minister says government wants to ‘protect pig farmers everywhere’ during migrant labour crisis

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Rogan says he has received a commitment from Rural Affairs Minister Lord Benyon that the government “wants to make sure it is protecting pig farmers everywhere” as the labour crisis in the sector deepens.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 3:11 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th October 2021, 3:20 pm
A shortage of migrant labour is causing major disruption to pig farmers across the UK.
A shortage of migrant labour is causing major disruption to pig farmers across the UK.

Farming representatives across the UK have been warning for the past month that a dramatic shortage of migrant labour in the sector is causing major backlogs in slaughtering and processing the animals, leading to chaos and financial losses.

Speaking in the House of Lords earlier today, Lord Rogan said: “Over recent days, a succession of Government Ministers has told us how much they value Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom. As a Unionist, I warmly welcome that.”

But he added: “Almost a month ago, Victor Chestnutt, the President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, warned publicly that the Province’s pig farmers may have to start culling their animals because of labour shortages.”

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Lord Rogan asked the Minister: “Can you tell us what contacts you or your officials have had in the intervening weeks with the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union to help address this perilous situation?”

Responding, Lord Benyon said that Victoria Prentis, a Minster of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, had held “very frequent conversations with all the devolved governments on these issues”.

He continued: “It is absolutely vital that we look at this problem not just within the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. This is an issue that runs entirely across the Union and we want to make sure that we’re protecting pig farmers everywhere.”

BBC NI news reported today that the government will not drop the requirement for foreign butchers to speak fluent English if they want to work in the UK. There had been reports that ministers were planning to relax the requirement to address shortage of abattoir workers, something Stomront’s agriculture minister Edwin Poots had been pushing for.