Warning of 'massive pork shortages' unless pig farmers get fairer prices

Norfolk farmer Rob Mutimer is chairman of the National Pig Association

Norfolk farmer Rob Mutimer is chairman of the National Pig Association - Credit: Denise Bradley

Consumers could face huge hikes in pork prices unless retailers pay more to stop financially-stricken pig farmers going out of business, said industry leaders.

Norfolk farmer Rob Mutimer, who is chairman of the National Pig Association (NPA), made the plea after writing to supermarket giant Tesco to appeal for better prices to prevent the "destruction of the UK pig sector".

Farmers are facing estimated losses of £50 per pig as production costs soar due to record animal feed prices, driven by rising wheat prices caused by the war in Ukraine.

Retailers including Co-op, M&S, Aldi, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have agreed to pay more for British pork through their supply chains. After receiving the NPA letter, Tesco said its suppliers have increased payments to farmers by £3.4m since March.

But the NPA says average pig prices remain below 170p/kg, and it currently costs 203-216p/kg to produce a pig - meaning many producers are losing thousands of pounds each week.

The industry has already lost an estimated 10pc of its breeding herd as producers quit the industry or cut down on production, while an NPA survey suggests that 80pc "will not survive the next 12 months" unless the gap between the cost of production and pig prices is "significantly reduced".

Mr Mutimer said: "Generally the supermarkets are going in the right direction. Waitrose putting £16m into their pork supply chain is great news and it gives us the confidence to battle on.

"We have seen the pig price rise, but it needs to be 210-220p/kg to break even, so there is still a long way to go.

"If we don't get the retailers to start doing this now at a reasonable level, we will see massive shortages of pork and other products this time next year because farmers will be going bust or not having the confidence to carry on.

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"The modest cost increases we need to stay in production will not have a massive effect on consumers, but if we don't do something now we could see pork prices at a level we have never seen in 18 months' time, and not just here - this is a worldwide phenomenon."

A Tesco spokesman said: "We fully recognise the seriousness of the situation UK pig farmers are facing and have been working closely with our suppliers to understand what more we can do to support the sector.

"Through the buying models we already have in place, our suppliers have increased payments to farmers by £3.4m since March 2022. However we would like to do more and are actively working with our suppliers on a further enhanced payment plan to support farmers in the short term."