By Tim Relf

DENMARK has its sights firmly set on the UK bacon market, upping payments to farmers who produce for this outlet.

From January, a 4p/kg premium over the industry standard will be paid for stock delivered under a contract which bans stalls and tethers and meat and bonemeal rations.

The change has come, says John Howard of the Danish Bacon and Meat Council, in a bid to speed change in production systems and save UK market share in the face of tighter retailer requirements.

Between 10% and 12% of Danish producers are now compatible with their UK counterparts as regards housing systems. “To safeguard the market, we need get this up to 30-35%,” says Mr Howard.

Mick Sloyan of the Meat and Livestock Commission says this marks a step nearer to the “level playing field” for which British farmers have long been calling. “The big retailers used to import pigmeat as a commodity – now they take more interest in production methods.”

The downside, says Mr Sloyan, is that the price incentive could generate extra volume, bringing further import pressure. Danish product already accounts for about 25% of the bacon market, with home-produced supplies making up about half.

Economic problems in Russia and the Far East have also starved the Danes of outlets, focusing their attention back on the EU, says Mr Sloyan.

This has contributed to the “further than expected” fall in EU farmgate prices, with November reference levels in main producing countries between 60% and 68% less than a year ago.