03 August 1998
Pig farmers face tough times

THE British pigmeat industry is the latest agricultural sector to face tough times, thanks to the strength of the Pound and prices far below production costs, the Financial Times reports.

Tony Pexton, National Farmers Union deputy president, said the Pounds strength and the oversupply of pig meat have cut prices dramatically. Mr Pexton, who keeps 220 breeding sows on his Yorkshire farm, said he was losing £6-7 for each pig on the 80 a week he sells, while his sows have halved in value.

What angers UK farmers most is that they have been forced to introduce higher welfare standards than their Continental competitors.

The British Pig Association says the industry has recently invested £220 million in improved standards.

Farmers say the big UK retailers have told them consumers want higher welfare standards and are prepared to pay for them. But now, they say, some retailers are switching to cheaper imported meat. Already more than 20% of the UKs pig meat consumption is imported.

The article profiles Martin Martindale, a pig farmer based at Over Wallop, near Stockbridge in Hampshire, whose overdraft is rising. A year ago Mr Martindale was getting more than £1.30/kg per pig, with each pig weighing about 50kg deadweight when sold. Now he is getting as little as 60p/kg – which means he is receiving about £30 a pig when he needs £50 to break even.