Pig farmers warned that that the future of independent pig farming is in peril, with potential shortages of British pork ahead, as BBC’s Countryfile programme focused in on the escalating pig crisis.
A number of pig farmers were interviewed during the 10-minute feature, which can be viewed here, including Suffolk outdoor farmer and Pig World columnist Chris Fogden, who revealed he is quitting production.
“We are winding down and getting out of pig production. Everything is going for slaughter,” he told interviewer Tom Heap.
At current prices and cost levels, he could lose £360,000 a year if he continues. The pigs will be gone by July. “It was either them or me. I had to get out to still have a roof over my head. If I carried on, there was a risk of losing everything,” Chris said.
He has only recently heard of another pig farmer leaving the sector and warned that ‘unless something happens very, very soon, there will be very few independent pig producers left’.
The programme also heard from Kate and Vickie Morgan, Simon Watchorn, Anna Longthorp and Stephen Thompson, who explained how the crisis is affecting them. Kate Morgan revealed that, with grain prices up by about 50%, the cost of feed has increased by about 27p per pig per day, meaning they are losing about £50/pig.
“How long can we sustain that? We are hearing of different producers going out on a daily basis. It is awful. The industry will never look the same,” she said.
NPA chairman Rob Mutimer highlighted how much of the problem lies within the supply chain. “There are four main processors that process more than 80% of the pigs in the country. With the turmoil of the last two-and-a-half years, most of the contracts don’t seem to be worth the paper they are written on,” he said, adding that his processor has only been taking about 75% of contracted pigs, something that has been rolling over for nine months, leaving ‘an awful lot of pigs that are not sold’.
The programme discussed the need for reform of contracts through the current Government review of the pig supply chain and highlighted the profits made by some processors.
BMPA chief executive Nick Allen acknowledged that there has been ‘a history on both sides of being casual about contracts’ and said it was right now that it is being looked at. “You can’t go through the last year and say it has worked well,” he admitted.
The feature questioned whether, as more quit the industry, whether British pork farmers could be ‘finished off’ by the cost of living crisis. “If we don’t see a return to profitability by the end of the year, I don’t see there being hardly any independent pig producers left in this country. There just won’t be pork on the shelves produced to our standards in nine month’s time,” Rob said.