Farmer Focus: Pig price reform needed to aid recovery

It has been a busy start to 2023 on the farm, and in my optimistic view, it feels as if we are just starting our bid to recover from what has been an absolutely dire time financially for the pig enterprise.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the lack of control we have over the end market for our pigs is a frustration.

Dad and I are looking to solve it in our own ways for the short-, medium- and long-term resilience of our family farming business.

See also: European demand drives UK pork sector to new all-time high

About the author

Jack Bosworth
Livestock Farmer Focus writer Essex pig farmer Jack Bosworth farms 263ha of arable and a 540-sow farrow-to-finish operation in partnership with his family. About 60% of pigs are finished at home and 150 are sent to a farm in Norfolk to finish on a bed and breakfast contract.
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Dad is busy working away with a few consultants, the AHDB, and the National Pig Association, to try to get some amendments to the pricing strategy that generates the base price.

The standard pig price (SPP) and the tribune price make up our base price, and it’s too easily manipulated, meaning it is hard for independent producers to survive.

Bigger outfits can pay their producers a low price but a large bonus, and that bonus does not contribute to the SPP, driving it down.

This ties in with the Defra supply chain review, a consultation from which pig farmers are desperate to get some answers sooner rather than later. I believe many are still weighing up whether it is viable to stay in the business.

I am continuing to plan our next steps towards setting up our own butchery on the farm, with outlets to include locals, hospitality, retail and hopefully even markets in London, which is just 35 miles away.

We are getting professional help for a planning and grant application with this.

It’s been dry at home, so we hope we can go out with slurry “little and often” as crop needs dictate, for maximum benefit. We can do this with our own kit, but it wouldn’t be viable with contractors.

At time of writing, I am on the Tube going into London for a night away from the farm with Amy. This is the last time before two of us become three, with baby Bosworth due to arrive in the middle of March.

Much to Amy’s delight, on the agenda is an early start to Smithfield Market pre-breakfast, followed by a farmers’ market. I know what you’re all thinking… I sure know how to live.