Falling supplies of UK pigs are being replaced by rising levels of imports, 70% of which are illegal to produce in the UK on pig welfare grounds.

These statistics are included in the latest British Pig Executive survey published this month.

According to the BPEX survey imports of pork and pork products reached 858,000 tonnes in 2005, an increase of 35% since 2001.

At the same time the number of pigs produced in the UK to much higher welfare standards are continuing to decline.

The latest DEFRA slaughter statistics show that the average weekly kill for March was just 146,000 head – down by half% since the late 1990s.

The BPEX results also confirm that an estimated 68% of all pork eaten in the UK was sold through retail outlets.

Supermarkets dominate this sector, selling 76% of pork, 81% of bacon and 86% of other processed pigmeat products.

Many of the supermarket promotions including “buy one get one free” special offers use imported pigmeat selling for 6% to 30% below the equivalent UK products.

The National Pig Association is worried that unless greater price differentiation is achieved at the shop counter, UK producers will continue to find it hard to compete with cheaper low welfare imports.

Consumer research indicates that more than 90% of consumers questioned felt that all pork should be produced to UK welfare standards.

According to BPEX the latest figure, price considerations seemed to be outweighing consumer concerns at the expense of the higher welfare UK pig production industry.