The government is expected to back down today in a row over visas for foreign butchers to prevent a mass cull of British pigs.
A shortage of butchers at industrial slaughterhouses has left farmers with too many pigs on their farms, leading to warnings that 10,000 pigs a week could have to be destroyed.
It is understood the government will announce a package of measures, thought to include dropping a requirement for fluent English, to allow more trained butchers to come to Britain on temporary visas.
The move follows a meeting on Monday between farmers, processors and the government’s recently appointed supply chain advisor Sir Dave Lewis.
The National Pig Association (NPA), which represents the majority of farmers affected, said it was “quietly optimistic” and that the requirement for butchers to speak English was “the final blocker”.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “It is not wages because they are over the £25,000 threshold. It is coming down now to the English level requirement and the bureaucracy of the process in terms of applying for these visas.”
Earlier this month Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to play down the prospect of a mass cull, saying the pigs would be killed anyway.
“There is a question about the types of job that are being done, the pay that is being offered, the levels of automation, the levels of investment in those jobs,” he said.
“What we can’t do in all these sectors is go back to the tired old model, and reach for the lever called uncontrolled immigration, and get people in at low wages.”
The shortage of butchers affects around 1,400 farms that supply 90% of British pork through contracts with major processors.