Consumers and retailers must back British as the long-running pig sector crisis continues to take its toll on farms across the country, the National Pig Association (NPA) has said.
The body today (13 September) warned that there could be a reduced choice of favourite British pork products over the Christmas festive period 'unless things change rapidly'.
Recent figures from AHDB showed pig producers lost, on average, an unsustainable £52/pig in the second quarter of this year, following losses of £59/pig in Q1.
After seven successive quarters of negative margins, producers have lost, collectively, £600 million since the autumn of 2020, AHDB estimates.
The financial woes are continuing through this quarter, the NPA warned, as rising pig prices have failed to keep pace with soaring feed and energy costs.
Meanwhile, Defra’s June Agricultural census showed a massive 17% reduction in the English pig breeding herd, which industry data suggests is mirrored on a UK-wide basis.
The pig sector has been impacted with significant challenges, with farmers seeing increased feed costs, as well as problems with moving pigs off-farm for slaughter.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the continued lack of an available skilled labour have had a disproportionate impact on the sector.
The situation has also been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leading to increased input costs, including feed, fuel, energy, and fertiliser.
Responding to the threats, NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson said shortages of pork products at Christmas would leave the supply chain more reliant on EU imports.
She pointed to reports from those involved in the marketing of pigs, which suggest that demand for British pork is ‘sluggish’ at the moment, with EU imports still a cheaper option, despite the rising EU prices.
With more producers feeling the strain amid weekly reports of more businesses quitting the industry, Ms Wilson said UK retailers and consumers could do their bit to save the pig sector by sourcing and buying British.
“As pig farmers continue to lose money following a two-year struggle, sadly increasing numbers are having to make the very difficult decision to reduce their herd or close.
“This will potentially mean less British pork available on the supermarket shelf in the run-up to Christmas."
Ms Wilson added: “It is a challenging time for everyone, not just our pig farmers, but what will help is for retailers to continue to support our domestic supply by buying British Red Tractor pork wherever possible, and for shoppers to buy British too.
“Pork is still very competitively priced and so provides excellent value for money when budgets are increasingly being squeezed.”