At least 16,000 pigs are reported to have been culled on farm - but the actual number is likely to be much higher.

The National Pig Association (NPA) has shared survey data that shows that 11 per cent of farmers have already culled healthy pigs, with a further 10 per cent saying they will need to do so within the next two weeks.

While the NPA has officially been notified of 16,000 such kills, the figure is likely to be a gross underestimate, it reports.

The backlog has largely been created by a lack of skilled meat processors since many employed in the profession are European.

Although the government has offered 800 temporary work visas for butchers, these have not been taken up by many.

Likewise, the private storage aid for processors offered by Defra has not been taken up.

Consequently pressure continues to build on government.

Responding on Twitter to Sky News report on the worsening situation, Shadow Defra Secretary Luke Pollard said: "Pig farmers have been laughed at by the PM.

"They’ve been ignored and sidelined by Defra.

"The combination of a botched Brexit deal, the pandemic and an incompetent government has led us to the biggest cull of healthy pigs in our history.

"Ministers need to get a grip, not ignore it."

The NPA said: "The harsh reality is that the situation on farm is getting worse.

"The backlog is not noticeably easing and, with processing days set to be lost over Christmas, it is likely to be into the New Year before we see any real improvement.

"As the feed price continues to rise and the pig price falls, the already dire financial situation is worsening.

"It is a question simply of survival for many and the industry desperately needs the full support of the supply chain and government."

Yesterday (December 1) Defra published recommendations from the Animal Welfare Committee, made in July, to pig farmers on how to cull piglets on farm.