National Pig Association threatens ham import battle

Pig producers are threatening to hit the campaign trail over fears that processors and retailers are looking to turn their back on British gammon in favour of cheaper imports this Christmas.

Following on from last year's successful 'Pigs are Worth it' campaign, the programme of activity is likely to centre around the lowering of pig prices. Producers said they were concerned that retailers were pushing down market values as Christmas purchasing kicks off.

Commenting on a recent move by two major pork processors to switch to flexible pricing for supplied product, National Pig Association chairman Stewart Houston said: "This is the result of retailer pressure. It indicates that processors will look to import cheaper, lower-welfare gammon rather than use British pork."

Importing pork in large quantities would seriously impact the UK market in terms of the whole animal, added Houston: "There has been a decent run of prices, and producers have used the surplus to fill the black hole created in 2008, when there were significant losses. This could undo all that good work, as legs form a large part of the carcase."

A rise in imports could lead to a surplus of UK product on the commodity market, which would have a knock-on effect on the DAPP, he said.

Producers are also concerned that large imports of pork for gammon could lead to a breach of the voluntary pig meat supply chain task force labelling guidelines, as agreed to by major supermarkets and processors.

"It's important that retailers stick to the guides that came out of the recent task force, but the indications are that, under price pressure, it could crack," added Houston.

A recent survey by YouGov found that 92% of consumers thought it misleading for imported pork to be labelled 'British', with 91% saying it was the supermarkets' responsibility not to mislead the public in this way.

The survey also found that 44% of consumers said they were likely to buy a gammon joint for Christmas.

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