Save our British Pig Farmers

As the UK pig industry faces meltdown, with industry commentators warning it is on the brink of collapse, Meat Trades Journal is launching a campaign calling for better prices

The UK pig industry is in meltdown, with industry commentators warning it is on the brink of collapse. The news came as two leading pig producers went to the wall last week. DRS Pigs and MCB Sow Company, both based in Yorkshire, called in administrators having amassed debts of over £3m.

Together, the companies have around 6,100 sows with 50,000 progeny, and 90 contract producers/finishers. Industry analysts estimate the companies' production, around 120,000 piglets a year, represents 2% of the industry.

With many in the sector now warning that the industry is on the brink of collapse, Meat Trades Journal is to launch a campaign to save the British pig industry.

Running alongside activity by the British Pig Executive, which this week launched a £1.5m advertising campaign in national newspapers, MTJ's campaign, Save Our British Pig Farmers, will call on retailers and others in the chain to raise the price of pork to allow farmers to make a living and re-invest in their operations. Ed Bedington, editor of MTJ, said: "The pig industry is in a hopeless situation. It's estimated that UK pig farmers are losing around £20 or more on every pig slaughtered. Some estimates suggest the sector is losing £6 a second or £3.6m a week. It doesn't take a genius to realise that this situation isn't sustainable and something needs to be done.

"Latest survey results show that 95% of farmers polled are considering halting production unless they can get much better prices for their pigs."

Feed prices have jumped from £96/t last year to a current price of around £178/t, an increase of 82%. With feed accounting for 50% of the cost of pig production, costs have spiraled for beleaguered farmers. "The industry has become leaner and more efficient in the last few years, to the extent that there is no more fat to trim," said one industry source.

While retail prices have risen in recent months, from £4.85/kg to £5.32/kg, there has been little evidence of a shift at the bottom of the chain, with the daily average pig price (DAPP) remaining static at around £1.10/kg. At the moment it is not clear where the benefit of those price rises has gone, with many in the industry describing the extra money as "sticking to the sides".

Stewart Houston, chairman of BPEX, said: "It's very gratifying that a magazine such as MTJ sees the gravity of the situation, appreciates the importance of the British pig industry and is willing to throw its weight behind the campaign. The industry is in meltdown and if we don't get some early answers, there will be some early exits.

"Retail prices have gone up, but very little of that has found its way down the supply chain to the producer. The biggest challenge over the next three months will be to make sure those rises reach the producer."

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