Karro boss calls for higher pig prices as British Pig & Poultry Fair gets underway

Karro Food Group chief executive Steve Ellis urged the entire pig supply chain to increase the price paid to producers to beyond the £2/kg mark, as the British Pig & Poultry Fair returned to Stoneleigh after a four-year hiatus. 

Outlining his short-term priorities to address the pig crisis and longer-term vision for the sector during the Pig Outlook forum, Mr Ellis said the backlog has come from an estimated peak of around 250,000 to 70,000 and is on course to be cleared in about four or five weeks.

The current UK pig kill is 230,000 to 240,000 a week, as processors work through the backlog. “Retail pork demand is just ahead of pre-pandemic levels. The optimum pig kill versus demand is 214,000 pigs per week,” said Mr Ellis.

But he stressed that once the backlog is cleared, with the sow herd having declined by an estimated 15% during the crisis, industry production could soon be well below that demand figure.

He outlined how the EU pork market, which has stalled of late, is very influential in setting GB pork prices. “Only 40% of pork consumed in the UK is UK produced. High UK pork prices create an incentive to switch to EU product,” he said.

But he stressed that urgent action to ensure there is not a further contraction of supply, and save the pig industry, calling for prices to rise to at least the £2/kg mark so producers can cover their costs. The industry should then get together to develop a more sustainable long-term pricing mechanism, including more effective contract arrangements.

“We must tackle the surplus of pigs, have fair pricing throughout the supply chain, as quickly as possible and collaborate on different models in the future,” he said.

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer also highlighted the need for processors and retailers to pump more money into the supply chain to prevent further industry contraction, and said contract arrangements need a major overhaul.

 The Pig Outlook was part of a busy programme in the Pig Forum theatre, as pig and poultry producers turned out in good numbers to the event, despite the hugely difficult trading environment the sectors have faced.

The 335 stands at the Fair – held at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire – covered animal health, breeding, housing, nutrition, energy, transport, biosecurity and more, featuring more than 66 new products, giving visitors the opportunity to compare and contrast different solutions.

Pig & Poultry event partner, ABN’s general manager Danny Johnson said it was great to be back meeting with people face to face again. “I’m really happy with how the event has gone today. Despite significant challenges facing the industry, the popularity of the Fair demonstrates how farmers are looking to the future and how they can protect and grow their businesses.”

The British Pig & Poultry Fair continues on Wednesday, when the forum sessions will be repeated. To book your free ticket visit www.pigandpoultry.org.uk.

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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.