Co-op urges other retailers to back British pig farmers after announcing £19m investment

The Co-op said it is spending £19 million to help its prices to pig producers keep pace with soaring costs and is urging other retailers to ‘go the whole hog’ and support the UK pig farming sector by shifting their sourcing policies to British produced pork.

The Co-op’s £19m pledge for the UK pig sector reflects the introduction of a new pricing model designed to help farmers manage rising production costs, by linking the price to the cost of production, rather than the market price for pigs. It will be reviewed monthly to ensure that the price remains reflective of the costs farmers are facing.

Co-op is a longstanding supporter of British pig farmers and said its new pricing model will see it go even further by moving away from the Standard Pig Price (SPP to offer its farmers a fairer price.

The Co-op is the latest retailer to announce support for British pig producers, following an announcement earlier in the month of a £16m support package by Waitrose. Retailers with larger market shares, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, have announced support of £6.6m and £2.8m, respectively, while some other retailers are known to be spending more but have not made official announcements.

However, with the SPP currently at 173p/kg and average costs estimated to be in excess of 230p/kg, while the price increases are welcome, they need to go further.

Co-op has a market share of 6%, but said its support outstrips any of the big four retailers combined, which have a combined market share of almost 70%.

The retailer said ‘it’s too little but not too late to go further’. Matt Hood, Co-MD, Co-op Food, said: “Some of the support for the sector is too little but it’s not too late for supermarkets to do their bit to help more British farmers. Switching to UK produced pork is the strongest commitment retailers can give to UK farmers at a time when the sector is experiencing unprecedented spiralling costs.

“Pig farmers have been facing historically high feed costs even before Christmas, which has now been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine. As a result, many UK farmers are suffering significant losses, and some tragically have been forced to close their farms.

“Co-op is a longstanding and leading supporter of British farming and our new pricing model will see us go even further. We know that this is an incredibly challenging time for UK pig farmers, and that we have an important part to play in supporting the industry. We will continue to do what we can to help all of our farming communities as part of our wider vision of working together to create a fairer world for all.”

Rob Mutimer, National Pig Association Chairman, said: “The Co-op has long been a loyal supporter of British pig producers and we very much welcome this support, which will help its pork suppliers cover the record costs of production they currently face.

“Most of the big retailers have now acted in some way to inject more money into the supply chain. But while the price increases are very welcome, with wheat having reached £350/tonne this week, they are still not matching soaring input costs.

“The reality is that our beleaguered pig producers remain under huge pressure and, in many cases, are battling just to survive from week-to-week. We still need to see more from some retailers. As our industry fights for survival, we urge all the big supermarket chains to always prioritise British pork where they can.”

The Co-op removed imported bacon from its stores five years ago to move to 100% British pork, from chops to bacon and ham.

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.