Fears have been raised for the future of some of the UK's rarest native pig breeds in the wake of the wider crisis in the pork industry.

The warning came from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) as it published its annual "watchlist" in the charity's 50th anniversary year.

Among the breeds showing the most worrying declines is the British Landrace pig, which saw just 23 dams producing pedigree progeny in 2022 - a far cry from the 1970s, 80s and 90s when it became one of the UK's most popular commercial pig breeds. 

Other declining native pig breeds causing concern include the British Saddleback and the Gloucestershire Old Spot.

Eastern Daily Press: The British Saddleback pig is one of the rare native breeds showing worrying declines on the 2023 RBST WatchlistThe British Saddleback pig is one of the rare native breeds showing worrying declines on the 2023 RBST Watchlist (Image: RBST)

It follows an extremely challenging time for the wider pig industry, a key sector for East Anglia's agricultural economy. Farmers faced more than two years of financial losses, caused by a combination of labour issues and crippling feed, energy and fuel bills.

The government launched a review aiming to "increase fairness and transparency" in the sector and, earlier this month, East Anglia's pig farmers welcomed Defra's commitment to regulate contracts to repair a "broken pork supply chain".

RBST chief executive Christopher Price said: "There is a lot to be positive about as we mark RBST’s 50th year.

"However the crisis in the pig industry over the past two years is driving a very worrying and worsening situation for several of our rare native breeds.

"Each of these breeds has unique characteristics, they are part of the UK’s heritage but they also have an important role in food production today and the resilience of our pig industry into the future.

"We are asking government to consider the urgent plight of native breeds as it reviews the pork supply chain, and every single person who chooses native breed produce in a restaurant or at a butchers will be making a real contribution to saving these irreplaceable rare breeds."