Waitrose announces £16 million package to support pig prices

Waitrose has announced a further support package for its British pork farmers worth up to £16m to ensure prices paid for pigs to cover producers’ soaring costs of production. 

The retailer said the move means it will cover the full cost of rearing and producing pigs – including labour, feed, and fuel – offering its farmers financial security when others are being forced out of the sector. It stressed that the commitment ‘will not detract from our promise to provide great value for customers or our pledge to always maintain our leading welfare standards’.

Waitrose’s executive director, James Bailey, said: “Farmers are the backbone of Britain, keeping food on our tables during our country’s hour of need through a pandemic. But now, they need our help.

“This investment is a direct response to some of the most challenging conditions the pig sector has ever faced. This is not only the right thing to do, it will ensure we continue to pay our farmers a fair price while maintaining our quality and high welfare standards.

“My hope is that this will enable us to keep working with them for decades to come, but we can’t do it alone. This issue is industry-wide and we need the entire food industry and the British public to get behind us. If we don’t stand united in supporting UK pork farmers and act soon, many businesses will be lost.”

Waitrose, which had previously announced moves to support pig prices in February, pointed out that since the Autumn, foreign exports of pork have fallen significantly and, with supply far outstripping demand, this caused the price of meat to plummet. At the same time, production costs have risen sharply, with the cost of feed rising steeply as a result of the war in Ukraine – meaning that many British pork farmers are struggling to stay afloat.

Average pig costs of production are now well in excess of £2/kg and set to rise as the impact of further feed price rises comes through, while the Standard Pig Prices remains below 170p/kg, despite recent increases.

The issue has been further compounded by a shortage of trained butchers in the UK, meaning farmers cannot process their existing livestock, resulting in a further loss of sales, with tens of thousands of pigs having to be culled and the meat being discarded, jeopardising the future of the sector.

Reaction

Waitrose’s move follows an announcement by Sainsbury’s that it is investing £2.8m to support pig prices, but other retailers, including Tesco, are being urged to do more.

NPA chairman Rob Mutimer said: “NPA welcomes the announcement from Waitrose and their recognition that they need to pay a fair price to their supplying farmers to ensure that they can continue to source British pork for their customers.

“British pig farmers produce pork to high standards but cannot continue to do so at such a significant financial loss. Waitrose has demonstrated their commitment and we now need other retailers to do the same before it is too late.”

NFU president Minette Batters said: “Every day we’re seeing farmers leaving the sector because they simply can’t afford to keep their businesses afloat. Waitrose has acted thoughtfully and the move will inject much needed confidence for their farmers.

“We need all supermarkets to take similar action and create support packages that will genuinely come to the aid of British pig farmers in their hour of need – the rapid rise in farm costs need to be met or we risk supply into next year. I hope this move will inspire others to stand by the country’s farmers, we owe them our support.”

Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said: “I’m delighted to see Waitrose further bolstering its support for British pork farmers with this significant and important investment. Never has there been a time when it’s needed more. I encourage and welcome action such as this which ensures fairness for farmers and supports high standards of animal welfare.”

Waitrose sources pork from over 250 British pig farms and all of it is British and outdoor bred.

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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.