British pig farmers are missing a golden opportunity to go organic and supply the growing premium section of the market in exchange for a healthy margin, according to one the country’s biggest organic producer.

Tim Finney, managing director of Eastbrook Farms Organic Meat in Wilts, says the organic market is crying out for every part of the pig.

“There is an acute shortage building up, which means we can’t do everything we want to do with the business.

People are scrabbling for every bit of product.”

The organic sector saw retail sales grow 11% last year to £1.2bn and Eastbrook turned over more than £4m on its pig operations, much sold under the Helen Browning brand.

At present it buys 550 organic pigs a week – about 50% of the UK total, but more is needed, Mr Finney says.

“We need existing producers to expand and people new to this game to feed in sows from a standing start.”

Mick Sloyan of the British Pig Executive agreed that there was an opportunity in the organic sector, but urged farmers to do the sums before converting.

“There’s some demand currently for increasing volumes because there’s still a fair amount of imports coming in.

“But if producers are going to do it, they shouldn’t go in with their eyes closed:

The costs are 70-100% higher than conventional pig farming.

They should get a contract first – a good supply contract with some sort of price formula.”

Mr Finney said farm-gate organic prices ranged from £2.02/kg to £2.10/kg deadweight for a 72kg pig, while costs typically hit £1.80/kg.

sam.fortescue@rbi.co.uk