Moving pigs from Scotland to England for finishing is "a lost opportunity for the Scottish industry", according to the National Farmers' Union of Scotland (NFU Scotland).

Jamie Wyllie, the NFU Scotland pigs chairman, was responding to the latest Agricultural Census, which was released approximately two weeks ago.

It found that, in December 2018, the total pig numbers in Scotland was around 333,000 - a decrease of almost 50,000 on 10 years previously, when the figure stood at 382,000.

In my view the decline of pig numbers is largely due to the availability of adequate pig abattoir capacity...this initially resulted in a decline of sow numbers, but more importantly, pigs are now being moved south to be finished in England, which is a lost opportunity for the Scottish industry.

"During this time, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the average UK indoor unit reported a profit per pig in the same number of years as it made a loss," said Wyllie.

He added: "The wild fluctuations that have been seen in the market over the years have created a very difficult environment for producers to invest in new breeding and finishing facilities."

Wyllie underlined the work done in the Scottish pig industry to tackle pig diseases, including Mange and Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).

This drive to remove disease from Scottish farms will help make their businesses more resilient. Rather than relying on continued use of antibiotics and vaccines, a large number of farms in Scotland have undergone expensive depopulations and repopulations with clean stock, something which they should be commended for.

"Removing disease from Scottish pig farms is an ongoing process and a long-term goal for the industry, entirely supported by the union and the pig committee," said Wyllie.

He concluded his remarks by saying: "This forward thinking is what the industry needs to be able to survive in the volatile market. However, to truly reverse the trend of declining pig numbers in Scotland, we need to increase our slaughter and processing capacity."