The current deal, made when the UK voted to leave the European Union, needs to be overhauled and replaced with a fairer and more effective deal, admits German agricultural publication Agrarheute. Farmers’ associations in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are calling for a fairer relationship with the EU as the industry grapples with a myriad of issues. Pig farmers are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic which has disrupted supply lines and reduced capacity at slaughterhouses.

There have also been a series of pork plant closures and the suspension of exports to China of some plants.

To make matters worse, the industry has faced an exodus of workers due to the pandemic and Brexit, which has seen many foreign workers return to their home countries.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “The problem is that for some reason many workers have left the processing plants and returned home because so many of them are from Eastern Europe.

“The slaughterhouses themselves cannot process the number of pigs we supply them each week.

“So in the last six to eight weeks all the major processors have reduced their catches by up to 25%, so the pigs are kept on the farms much longer than they should be.

“And that is leading to an absolute crisis for us on the pig side.”

According to official figures, pig farmers in the UK have been forced to slaughter around 16,000 animals due to these aggravating factors.

But that number could be even higher due to unreported cases, said trade magazine Farming UK and the National Pig Association (NPA).

The government has released a support package that includes 800 visas for foreign workers, private storage aid and slaughterhouse incentives, but farmers insist a more efficient system is also needed.

The German publication Agrarheute notes: “Over the past week, the situation for British pig farmers has deteriorated overall.

“In order to create prospects for the agricultural sector, British farmers’ associations are calling for a fresh start in relations with the EU.”

Farmers’ associations now want to make the 70,000 British farmers more present in the Union than they were previously marginalized.

Associations from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have issued a joint statement saying they will revitalize the British Agriculture Bureau (BAB) in a bid to stand up for British farmers.

They underlined the importance of cooperation between all European farmers in a report published on Friday 3 December which promotes their vision of a more balanced relationship with Europe.

A key aim of the new relationship is to open up new business opportunities while upholding high UK standards.

To make this a reality, the BAB suggests they should be responsible for trade and standards, science and innovation, the environment, and animal health and welfare.

In addition, a strong and competitive agricultural economy must be supported by UK trade policy.

The report also says that in the future UK farmers want to improve their productivity, conserve resources and reduce the ecological footprint of agriculture.

Additional reports Monika Pallenberg

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