Struggling pig farms have finally returned to profit after more than two years of crippling financial losses, according to new industry figures.

Analysis by the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) shows UK pig farmers made an average net margin of £22 per head during the second quarter of 2023.

It is the first positive figure after 10 successive quarters of losses, driven by falling pig prices and record high costs - particularly for fuel and animal feed, whose value soared after the war in Ukraine drove up grain prices.

The industry racked up estimated debts of £750m during this period, and many farmers quit the sector as they grappled with losses which peaked at -£58 per pig at the start of 2022.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk farmer Rob Mutimer is chairman of the National Pig AssociationNorfolk farmer Rob Mutimer is chairman of the National Pig Association (Image: Denise Bradley)

North Norfolk pig farmer Rob Mutimer, who is chairman of the National Pig Association, welcomed the return to positive margins as the industry realigns following a crisis which has cut the size of the UK pig herd by an estimated 15pc.

"It is very positive news after all this time," he said.

"But I am very sorry for those who didn't make it through all those months of negative margins.

"The number of pigs coming onto the market throughout Europe has dropped significantly and there are a lot of people who have gone out of business.

"So demand has outstripped supply, and it is keeping the price where it needs to be, which is encouraging.

"Everything now depends on the price of inputs, and what is going to happen with grain prices. I have never known so much volatility in my lifetime."

Pigs are a vital part of East Anglia's agricultural economy, with an estimated 20pc of the national herd kept in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The AHDB estimates the full cost of pig production for the second quarter of 2023 at 196p/kg deadweight - a 17p/kg reduction from the previous quarter.

That was driven by falling animal feed costs, which account for an estimated 63pc of total costs - the lowest percentage since 2020.

Meanwhile the standard pig price (SPP) has continued to rise, now standing at 225p/kg.