The British pig industry has joined forces to seek help from across the supply chain and the British public to survive the worst period of low prices for five years.
Leaders of AHDB Pork, Assured Food Standards, British Pig Association, National Farmers Union Scotland, National Pig Association, Pig Veterinary Society and Quality Meat Scotland have issued a statement seeking to draw attention to the industry’s plight.
In it they cite the significant contribution British pig farmers make to the rural economy and describe their high animal welfare standards as the ‘envy of the world’.
It seeks ‘special support’ from independent butchers, supermarkets and shoppers over the coming months, to help the industry survive.
1) Even though this country is only 40 percent self-sufficient in pork, our farmers are losing up to £10 on every pig they sell, as a result of European Union over-supply. Without the support of the rest of the food-chain, serious contraction in the national pig herd is inevitable. This will mean even more imports of lower-welfare pork in future.
2) Some players in the British industry have already signalled their intention to scale back or quit. To prevent a much larger exodus before the European Union market starts to rebalance towards the end of this year, we are calling on all players who rely on a thriving domestic pig sector to take the following actions:
With your help, we can safeguard the future of the higher-welfare British pig industry.
The NPA launched a major media drive on Friday, with staff and farmers appearing on a number of platforms to raise awareness about the industry's plight.
Among its key messages was to encourage major retailers, Tesco and Asda, who have not committed to 100 per cent British pork, to at least commit to sourcing 5 per cent more.
"It will make a huge difference," the NPA said.
Audio of NPA's policy services officer Lizzie Wilson's appearance on BBC TV News can be heard here.
Audio from BBC Breakfast's visit to one NPA chairman Richard Lister's Yorkshire pig units can be heard here.
Audio from NPA chief executive Zoe Davies's appearance on the BBC 6pm news can be heard here
By the end of January, the UK Standard Pig Price (SPP) was down to 112.66p/kg, down fractionally from the previous week.
This represented an eight-year low.
A year ago it stood at above 140p/kg, with the latest drop a continuation of the relentless decline from a high of just below 170p/kg in autumn of 2013.
The situation is driven by over-supply in the EU due in large part to the continuing Russian export ban. The availability of cheap EU pigmeat has pushed UK prices down, with signs of weakening UK demand also an issue.
Pigs typically cost £1.39p/kg to produce in the third quarter of last year, the latest AHDB pork estimates show, a figure unlikely to have changed significantly since.
The NPA estimates pig producers are typically losing £10 on every pig they produce due to this mismatch.
There are some glimmers of hope. The relatively small drop in the end of January price suggests the surplus of pigs coming forwards following the holiday period could now be drawing to a conclusion, according to AHDB pork.
Supply levels are still in excess of demand, however.
The EU pig price continued to firm during January, although the latest prices for week ending 24 January were released before the announcement came to suspend the Private Storage Aid scheme with a view of closing it.
It remains to be seen what impact this will have on the EU price, AHDB Pork said.