By Peter Crichton

AFTER a national shortage in pig numbers, the slaughtering industry faces a throughput crisis which could lead to further closures in months ahead.

Further evidence of this trend came with the shock announcement that Hutsons, of Beccles in Suffolk, was suspending all slaughtering activities.

The company is expected to make an announcement on the future of the company later today (Friday, 23 June).

A company spokesman could not comment on this “difficult time” for the company.

However, Hutsons financial manager confirmed that the recent fall in the numbers of slaughter pigs available had not helped.

According to recent reports the situation will get worse as pig numbers continue to drop for the rest of the year.

Hutsons used to handle a weekly kill of 6000 head, although in recent weeks this number is believed to have fallen closer to 4000, which lead to short-time working.

At the moment it is not clear if producers will be able to use this key East Anglian outlet in the future.

A takeover or management buyout could lead to a rapid return to normal operations, although pig availability will remain tight.

Other options could include the plant running under a receivership arrangement or, if no solutions are found, the permanent closure of the slaughter lines, with perhaps the site being used for further processing only.

The company confirmed that it believed it retained a loyal base of suppliers and producers in the region, who very much hope that this outlet will remain open at a time when abattoir numbers are continuing to shrink.

In the East Midlands the Malton Bacon Factory abattoir at Spalding still remains closed; this plant alone is capable of handling over 18,000 pigs per week.

Freestones of Nottingham also shut up shop recently, and the industry could soon be left with just a handful of large abattoirs and less competition for the product.