Pig producers squeezed to the margin

Farming leaders have accused supermarkets of making a concerted effort to break the back of the British pig industry.

Stewart Houston, chairman of the National Pig Association, claimed processors would begin tearing up contracts with producers as early as next month because of retailer price pressure and falling volumes.

“The retailers want to cut pig prices to levels they know are unsustainable for British producers and processors.

That would enable them to stock their shelves with cheaper, lower-welfare imported pork,” said Mr Houston.

Pig prices should be rising at this time of year, as post-Christmas demand builds up, but there has been little recent movement in contract or spot prices.

Tesco chairman David Reid said the store simply bought at market rates and urged pig farmers to exploit demand for premium pork products.

“There are limits to what we can do; we do not set global commodity prices or farm-gate prices.”

But a buyer at a major Lincolnshire processor said that contracts were becoming harder to honour.

“We are certainly under pressure from the big retailers, but what can we do?

Our pig kill is up 10% year-on-year and we will have to stick it out and see.”

The NPA has vowed to name and shame those it sees as the worst offenders and plans to lobby government with the findings of its PorkWatch survey, which collects information about the origin of retail pork.

It also demands an end to so-called “tertiary brands” which are made with imported pork but have British-sounding names.

Research by the British Pig Executive suggests that shoppers do want to buy pork produced to the United Kingdom “gold standard”.