A farmer has made an emotional plea to Boris Johnson amid fears she will have to dump her pigs “in the bin” as a result of the shortage of butchers in processing plants.
Kate Morgan urged the prime minister to “have the guts to stand up and talk to us” as campaigners call for short-term visas for foreign workers to be issued.
She fears she will have to cull pigs on her East Yorkshire farm before the end of the month, which would be a “criminal” as people are “starving” in the UK.
“We are in the worst position that UK agriculture has ever found itself,” Morgan told the BBC.
Johnson responded to concerns that more than 100,000 animals may have to be culled by pointing out that they were all destined to die anyway.
On the verge of tears, she said: “We are doing our jobs. This is not the farmers’ fault.
“This is higher up in this food supply chain, and it’s a farmer, that is emotionally in turmoil.
“We are struggling so much and all we are asking for is some help.”
BBC News host Victoria Derbyshire asked: “When do you need help by? What’s the timescale on this?”
The farmer said in response: “We needed help three weeks ago, months ago.
“The timescale is so critical. People are killing pigs now ... we personally are weeks away from having to make this horrendous choice, and it will destroy us.”
The host asked: “Why do you say that?”
Morgan answered: “Because we farm to feed the nation. We don’t farm to throw it in the bin.
“This is food waste. There are people starving in this country in the world
“And our government are prepared to let us throw healthy protein into the bin, and that is criminal.
“They’re telling schools to stockpile food, yet we are going to be throwing food in the bin.
“This is criminal. This is so, so serious.”
With her sister Vicky, Morgan is the second generation of her family to farm pigs near Driffield.
The farm has 1,700 breeding sows and they sell about 90,000 pigs a year.
But she said the number of pigs leaving for processing has dropped by 25% in the last 11 weeks.
A government spokesman said: “We understand the challenges that the pig industry has faced in recent months because of the Covid-19 pandemic, labour shortages, accessing CO2 supplies, and reduction in exports to the Chinese market.
“We are keeping the market situation under close review and working closely with the sector during this time.“
The government said it is encouraging the sector to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers and said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is working to raise awareness of career opportunities within the food and farming sectors among UK workers.
It said Defra is also working closely with the Home Office to ensure there is a long-term strategy for the food and farming workforce.