Flemish pork farmers ask government to freeze pigs as meat market plummets

Flemish pork farmers ask government to freeze pigs as meat market plummets
With demand for meat dwindling amid the coronavirus pandemic, Flemish farmers are running out of space for their already-fattened pigs, and have called on the government to buy and freeze up the animals. Credit: Stock image

Pig farmers in Flanders are running out of space for their animals as demand for pork meat slumps as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and a swine flu epidemic, a farmers union said.

The ABSvzw farmers union said that concern was rising among pig growers in Flanders as newborn piglets arrived into their stalls, which were growing increasingly engorged with already fattened hogs that they could not get rid off.

“On our pork farms, companies work with a rotating system in which new piglets are born all the time,” the union wrote on Facebook.

“This means that pigs must leave for the slaughterhouse at regular intervals to ensure that there is space for the new piglets in the stable.”

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But with demand from the restaurant and catering plummetting since the lockdown-imposed shutdown in mid-March, pork producers are appealing to authorities to buy and freeze up their animals.

“The demand for pork meat has fallen over the last few weeks due to the mandatory closing of [hotels, restaurants and cafés], of large kitchens and [other] food-service [industries] both at home and abroad,” the union wrote.

“Psychologically, it is very difficult to not know when your pigs will be sold, that is why we ask the government to buy and freeze pigs,” Bart Vergote, pig committee spokesperson for the union, told VRT.

“We are dealing with live animals that you cannot store like a product in a factory or warehouse,” he added.

On the global market, the viral pandemic has brought the meatpacking industry to a dramatic slowdown, forcing some farmers to resort to culling their animals, gassing chicks and inducing abortions in sows.

On top of the coronavirus pandemic, a separate epidemic is also weighing down Belgian pig farmers, who have been struggling with an African swine flu outbreak since it broke out two years in Wallonia.

The farmers union said that the double epidemics hitting them was hurting them, as fast-growing markets such as China and others in Latin America stopped buying from Belgium but continued importing from other European pork producers.

Since issuing their appeal ahead of the weekend, the farmers union on Monday said they were still waiting for a response from authorities.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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