The pig crisis has brought the sow price down to 6p/kg liveweight at some sales.
For a sow at 150kg, this is a price of £9/head, where last year the price would have been close to £150/head. At such a poor price, farmers are struggling to cover transport costs to the mart.
The majority of these sows are transported to England for slaughter before heading to Germany for further processing into products such as frankfurters.
Despite the dire prices, ironically it is preventing some farmers from leaving the sector, as the value of their sows has been wiped off the balance sheet.
For a 400-sow breeding herd, which is a loss of over £60,000, sows would typically weigh between 130kg to 250kg and be culled from the herd at between three to six years of age.
Three week backlog
On top of a crashed sow price, Scottish farms are still backed up with finished pigs, according to Andy McGowan, chief executive of Scottish Pig Producers.
Despite the backlog, Scottish farmers have so far avoided any culling of pigs
“Numbers appear to have stabilised and might not be growing, but there is still three weeks kill sitting on-farm,” said McGowan.
“Despite the backlog, Scottish farmers have so far avoided any culling of pigs. This really is the last resort and farmers are doing everything they can to avoid it.
“The cull and render facilites are not being used at the moment.”
McGowan explained that the Chinese market is showing more interest in buying pork, with the reported pig price up 50% since October.
Traditionally, Spain has been one of the main exporters of pigmeat to China
He believed this will convince abattoirs to lay on Saturday kills if China comes back online. Since China mainly buys primal cuts, the butchery required is minimal, which largely bypasses the challenges of the labour crisis.
Traditionally, Spain has been one of the main exporters of pigmeat to China.
They have not been getting much away in recent months, but if they get back to exporting large volumes, this should help lift prices across Europe.
NFU Scotland has submitted its response to the government’s consultation into future farm support and has asked for “significant changes to the current model.”
In the nine page document, it asks for future rural policy to balance food production, hitting climate change targets and biodiversity.
One of the key words used in the union’s vision is the concept of ‘conditional’ support.
Once again, the union is looking to tighten up rules to ensure only active farmers and crofters receive support payments
It claims that currently, the majority of support is unconditional and that half of all funding for farming and crofting moves from unconditional to conditional support, “with targeted outcomes for biodiversity gain and a drive towards low carbon approaches which improve resilience, efficiency and profitability.”
Once again, the union is looking to tighten up rules to ensure only active farmers and crofters receive support payments. This has been an aspiration for policymakers ever since support was decoupled in the early 2000s.
But as of yet, flexible business arrangements have allowed payment to be made to land owners and land managers who were not directly doing the farming.
The union wants future support to be a fundamental shift away from a blunt area-based support that can incentivise inertia towards a system based on activity.
The Scottish government’s ambitious target of having net zero carbon emissions by 2045 has put Scottish agriculture in the spotlight, as scientists claim the sector is one of the country’s biggest emitters.
However, the union is championing back the government’s own promise to deliver a “just transition towards a low carbon economy”.
The union wants to ensure that emissions reductions alone are not the only measure of policy success
The pledge, which is backed up by an independent commission, could prove to be allies for Scottish farming if emission reduction targets are proving too damaging to implement.
The union wants to ensure that emissions reductions alone are not the only measure of policy success.
It believes they are too blunt and too simplistic and will not reduce global emissions if reductions in Scottish agricultural activity merely lead to increases elsewhere and Scotland’s agricultural emissions being ‘off-shored’.
In the consultation response, the union wants to see support for improved productivity, adjusting management practices and carbon storage through soils, peatland and woodlands.
It also believes that methane emissions from livestock can be reduced through supported breeding programmes, better animal health and nutrition and makes specific mention of methane inhibitors in animal diets.
It also wants to see support for more modern and better maintained machinery, which can lower carbon dioxide emissions, as well as greater recognition of carbon storage within Scotland’s grasslands.
Every farm plays its part
Director of policy Jonnie Hall said: “The future delivery of support under agricultural policy in Scotland must enable every farm and croft, regardless of size, type or location, to play its part in delivering on the trio of food production, climate ambitions and biodiversity enhancement.
“It is clear that the political, economic and social context in which Scottish agriculture now finds itself has changed dramatically and the weight of expectation on delivery rests increasingly with farmers and crofters.
The scale and urgency of the change that is required in the next few years cannot be overstated
“Consequently, agricultural policy must change significantly and the responsibility of enabling farmers and crofters to deliver sits firmly with Scottish government and a new, properly funded policy package.
“The scale and urgency of the change that is required in the next few years cannot be overstated.
“Given the array of targets that Scottish agriculture has a key role in attaining, the Scottish government cannot adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach until 2025. It has a responsibility to prepare industry.
“The most recent Programme for Government commits to ‘conditional’ support and states that by 2025, half of all funding for farming and crofting will be moved from unconditional to conditional support, with targeted outcomes for low carbon approaches and biodiversity gain. That is a fundamental shift in approach that industry must be ready for.” he said.
£51m over three years
“The recently announced National Test Programme will begin in spring 2022, with up to £51m of investment over the following three years, to financially support farmers and crofters to establish a clear baseline and options for action. That ‘kick-start’ is what Scottish agriculture needs in the 2022 to 2024 period if the right tools and support are to be in place from 2025, when the climate and biodiversity performance of businesses is likely to determine the level of agricultural support received.
“NFU Scotland is certain that only active farming can deliver on these objectives and still meet our ambition to grow our food and drink sector. In doing so, we will continue to deliver for the Scottish economy and the nation.”
Quality Meat Scotland’s (QMS) chief executive Alan Clarke has announced that he will be stepping down from his position after five years.
Clarke decided to leave QMS after the board’s recent approval of the levy body’s new 10-year strategy and business plans. The Northern Irishman was previously the chief executive of industry body Scottish Bakers.
He said: “It’s been a privilege to lead QMS and the dedicated staff who, in everything they do, strive to protect, promote, support and develop Scotland’s red meat industry.
“The new 10-year strategy will help Scotland’s red meat industry navigate a post-Brexit, post-COVID world and I know QMS will go from strength to strength.”