The UK could face a shortage of pigmeat by the end of the year unless supermarkets accept the need to pay producers a greater price to cover the rise in input costs, the National Pig Association has warned.

To pledge your support for the Save our Bacon campaign sign the petition at Pigs are worth it

Feed prices, which typically account for 60% of rearing costs, have increased by more than 100% in the past 12 months consequently, most producers are estimated to be losing an average of £26 a pig.

NPA general manager Barney Kay recently warned that 336 producers were preparing to leave the industry unless they received a market rise to cover the increase in production costs.

“It takes as little as 10 months for a producer to get out of pigs. The retailers might be looking around the market and saying to themselves that there is still pigmeat in the market. But in less than a year the situation will be very different,” said Mr Kay.

Pigs

Many pig producers are contemplating leaving the industry unless market prices increase to reflect higher production costs.

The scenario was not unique to the UK, he said: Producers across Europe were grappling with higher input prices.

To avert a crisis Mr Kay said therewas a need for a “more responsible type of contract between those in the supply chain to reduce the impact of price volatility”.

Pig producers, he said, were not receiving the necessary market signals to invest in their businesses. According to Mr Kay, part of the problem lay in the retailers’ reluctance to promote an expanded range of premium product across the pork sector.

“There is definitely room for greater premiumisation of high quality British hams similar to the work done on fresh pork, but the retailers are reluctant to do so because of the availability of cheaper product from the Continent.”

Data from Pork Watch, an independently audited market report for the British Pig Executive, reveal the retailers’ large reliance on imported hams.

All of the main multiples’ feature a high proportion of fresh British pork in their offering, with many, such as Waitrose, M&S and Morrisons only stocking domestic product.

But the situation differs greatly when it comes to bacon and ham, with British product accounting for just 9% of the total ham offering at the Co-operative Group and 12% at Asda.

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The aim of the campaign is to raise public awareness of the difficulties facing Britain’s pig producers by:

  • Promoting the values of the Quality Standard Mark and urging shoppers to show support by buying QSM-labelled pork, ham and bacon
  • Gathering signatures at an online petition at www.pigsareworthit.co.uk – the petition is to be delivered to Downing Street by representatives of the National Pig Association
  • Holding a rally outside the Houses of Parliament on 4 March

Waitrose will also feature a blog (online diary) from Essex pig producer Fergus Howie. The “Hog Blog” can be viewed at www.waitrose.com/blog