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Rallying Round the Pig Industry at Downing Street

by 5m Editor
4 March 2011, at 11:36am

SCOTLAND, UK - Scottish pig farmers were at a national rally at Downing Street in London yesterday (Thursday, 3 March) to explain to politicians, retailers and the public that the combination of rocketing costs and poor prices means that Scottish farmers are losing money on every pig sold.

The current financial pressure on the sector is putting some pig farmers out of business. Jobs on farms are now being lost and that has created concern for other sectors that depend on pig producers – abattoirs, vets, animal feed manufacturers, pig equipment sales etc.

The rally at Downing Street has highlighted that the pig sector is being hammered by rocketing feed costs in tandem with lower prices paid by supermarkets. More worryingly, some retailers have chosen to buy more imported pigmeat rather than pay a fair price for home-produced. Despite the UK being world leaders in terms of welfare-friendly production, the rally warned all parties that without retailer support, more farmers will be forced to quit the industry and consumers will be stuck with lower-welfare imported pork, sausages, bacon and ham.

Speaking from Downing Street, NFU Scotland’s Vice President John Picken said: “The nation’s pig farmers have a fantastic story to tell, built around the highest welfare and environmental standards in Europe, and they have turned out today in their hundreds. The tremendous publicity around this rally and the reaction to our recent banner campaign shows that we continue to have the backing and support of the Great British public.

“They want to be able to buy our pork, bacon, ham, sausages and pies but for that to happen we need some supermarkets to wake up to the damage that their pricing, sourcing and import policies are wreaking on pig farmers at this time.

“Retailers are the crucial link in the chain. Recent examinations of supermarket shelves have shown that several of our major retailers are too quick to stock shelves with cheap, imported pork and bacon when the opportunity arises. They also hide behind ambiguous labelling rules that allow them to sell sausages and pies without fully disclosing where the pork in those products has come from. The sad fact is that most of the meat will have been imported.

“We want supermarkets to stand by local pig farmers and pay them a price that recognises the costs they face and the higher level of standards that we produce to here in Britain. And those costs, particularly for feed, are substantial and growing each day. Daily rations of feed wheat and barley that cost under 380 per tonne five years ago are now costing pig farmers 3180 to 3200 per tonne – a huge increase that the marketplace is, so far, failing to recognise. That cheap pricing policy of supermarkets simply must change because the indications are that grain prices are likely to remain high for a prolonged period.

“Without a change in approach from the retailers, then I fear for the future of pig production in Scotland. In just over a decade, the number of sows kept in Scotland has fallen from more than 80,000 to just 46,000. Over the same period, demand for pork and bacon in Britain has remained roughly the same but more than 50 per cent is now supplied from overseas, often produced in systems that would not be permitted here.

“Scottish pigs farms are already giving up. Every piggery that closes down calls into question whether we will retain the critical mass of pigs needed to keep our abattoirs stocked and supply consumers with pork under the Specially Selected Scotch label. If politicians and retailers stand back and allow that to happen, then that would be a travesty.“

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.