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Rashers may be rationed as pig farmers face bleak future

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 04, 2012

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Shoppers across the West are being urged to support British products amid warnings of a disaster for the pig sector.

While the headlines have focused on the battle by dairy farmers to get a fair price for their milk, pig producers are also in trouble.

The National Farmers' Union is urging consumers to support British farmers over the next few months.

The National Pig Association (NPA) says one-in-ten pig producers may be forced to quit by Christmas – putting some of the nation's favourite foods at risk.

Poor crop-growing weather around the world has made pig feed too expensive for British farmers, it has warned.

And that means some of the nation's favourite foods are under threat, as about 1.5 million rashers of British bacon could vanish from the supermarket shelves. Some 2.3 million sausages a week are also at risk, and there could be fewer British sausage rolls and pork pies on the shelves.

James Hart, who has a farm at Barnsley, near Cirencester, has been forced to stop raising pigs – even though his family spent 40 years in the business wining numerous awards.

He was faced with £150,000 a year losses, and had to dismiss 16 employees and shut down all three of his pig units.

"Only two or three per cent of farmers in the country will be making money at today's prices," he said.

"The really unbusinesslike ones who do it because it's what they love, they might carry on for a while until they're bankrupted."

Mr Hart said supermarkets would not be able to stock pork of the same high ethical standards and quality that shoppers were used to if the crisis continued. "The reality of modern economics is we get driven to lower prices. The consumer in this country is the real loser. They won't be able to buy high-welfare pork because it isn't going to be there – it's going to be absolute carnage out there."

Dr Zoe Davies of the NPA said: "If supermarkets see a surge in demand for British products, they may be persuaded to pay our farmers the few extra pennies a kilo more they need to cover their soaring feed bills.

"So we are asking shoppers, who have always been incredibly loyal in the past, to please be extra careful to look for the British Red Tractor logo on bacon, sausages and pork."

In recent weeks British pig farmers have suffered a 25 per cent increase in the cost of pig feed ingredients such as a wheat and soya because of the poor growing conditions, especially in the US.

But intense High Street rivalry means supermarkets are reluctant to pay farmers more to cover the extra production costs.

Stephen Howarth of BPEX, the pig industry trade body, said retailers would have to charge a minimum of 15p more per kilo just to cover the costs of production.

"The fundamental issue is not dissimilar to the sort of issues being raised by the dairy industry recently.

"The price the producers are being paid for their pigs is less than the cost of producing them."

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