The government has launched a review aiming to "increase fairness and transparency" in the pig industry.

Defra's consultation into the pork supply chain follows a raft of recent challenges for one of East Anglia's key livestock sectors.

They include soaring animal feed and fuel costs, and labour shortages in processing factories which caused a huge backlog of pigs on farms.

Earlier this year, Norfolk farmers warned of an exodus from the industry unless prices improved to counteract mounting financial losses.

Farming minister Victoria Prentis said: “Recent months have been very difficult for pig farmers due to a range of pressures including rising costs and global labour shortages.

"We have engaged closely with the sector to support them in considerably reducing the backlog of pigs on farms and I continue to work with producers and retailers to support the sector.

“I am a firm believer in ‘Buy British’ and supporting our domestic pig producers, and a fair and transparent supply chain is paramount. I hope the industry engages fully with this consultation so that we can help to address the challenges that they are facing.”

The review on "contractual practice in the UK pig sector" will run until October 7 and invites views from pig farmers, abattoirs, processors, retailers and marketing groups.

Industry leaders said the long-awaited review must lead to action that protects and benefits pig producers at the start of the supply chain.

National Pig Association chief executive Zoe Davies, who is due to take up a new role as East Anglia regional director for the National Farmers' Union in August, said: "For us, it's all about protecting the primary producer.

"Recently, we have seen how the costs fall on primary producers, so we want better protections within the contracts that exist in the supply chain.”

She added it was "absolutely imperative" that retailers are part of this review.

“This is something that we fed back to Defra because the retailers set the environment in which the processors work," she said.

“So we need to ensure retailers are part of that discussion and that they are as responsible as the rest of the supply chain when it comes to transparency and fair play.”