Thousands of pigs could be culled over shortage of workers

Thousands of pigs could be culled in Northern Ireland if a major workforce shortage is not sorted out within weeks.

That is the warning coming from those in the industry who fear that, if the work flow crisis is not dealt with now, there will be a backlog of 50,000 pigs on farms here by the end of December. Farmers may be forced to cull thousands of healthy pigs because of welfare issues and, due to strict regulations in the UK, it would mean they're are not allowed to be used for food.

Animals can only be sold as food if they are killed in an approved way in an approved setting.

Those in the industry have described the current situation as being at crisis point and the Agriculture minister Edwin Poots has admitted having to cull live stock is a possibility.

Industry experts have said there are several reasons for staff shortages, including the Covid pandemic, global, industry factors as well as the end of freedom of movement brought on by Brexit.

The majority of agri-food processing jobs in Northern Ireland are taken up by migrant workers, however the industry is struggling to fill the posts.

In a bid to stop more pigs being wasted, the government has announced measures that will allow hundreds of foreign butchers to work in the UK.

Northern Ireland alone requires, at least, 250 workers however the government has only given the green light for 800 temporary visas in the pork industry.