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End to UK pig farming in sight warns survey

by 5m Editor
27 October 2007, at 5:22pm

UK - Michael Pollitt, Rural Affairs Editor, EDP, writes that soaring animal feed prices could spell the end of the UK's pig industry within 12 months as producers are forced to quit, a national survey has warned.

Some 35pc of producers could quit the industry by Christmas as grain prices have almost doubled, said Digby Scott, editor of the Pig World magazine.

A pig industry website census showed more than 90pc of the British pig breeding herd could disappear in the next year unless prices rise sharply.

However, Mr Scott said because 48pc of producers have long-term feed contracts, supplies of home-produced pork and bacon will be immediately at risk.

Producers are under acute financial pressure, with 41pc paying 50pc more for their feed than last year, he added.

The National Pig Association (NPA) warned that producers were being driven to the wall by spiralling feed prices which are making rearing pigs "unsustainable".

It says that farmers are losing £26 per pig - the equivalent of £6 a second or £3.6m a week across the 1,400 producers in the industry - because of the high costs which are caused by global wheat price rises.

As the EDP reveals in today's Farm & Country, the average cost of feed wheat has soared from £72.15 per tonne to more than £118.

Pig and poultry producers in the eastern counties are the biggest consumers of feed grains including wheat last year.

While the outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease had added to the industry's problems, the rising price of feed is seen as the biggest threat to pork production in the UK.

Barney Kay, general manager of the NPA, said: "These survey results show us just how precarious the industry is as many farmers are seriously considering terminating production permanently. If this were to happen the UK pig herd will be decimated irrevocably. It's much worse even than foot-and-mouth.

"All we are asking is for consumers to pay a little more on a pig product - no more than 20p per pack - and that the money is passed back down the chain to farmers.

"We believe that the great British public would be happy with this to help save local pig farming from certain extinction."

East Anglian pig producers staged a national rally in London outside a major grocery and retailers' conference earlier this month to highlight the plight of the pig industry.

Free range producer Jimmy Butler, who keeps about 1,800 sows at Blythburgh, near Halesworth, said that the retailers must play their part in helping the industry. "If the retailers don't act, we're here today, gone tomorrow," he said.

5m Editor