Blythburgh farmer Jimmy Butler says high feed prices ‘pushing pig farmers into losses’

PIG farmers may start to leave the industry as dramatic grain price rises put further pressure on the sector, an industry veteran has warned.

Jimmy Butler, of Blythburgh Pigs, near Southwold, said that for those who had not forward-bought their feed, the situation was bleak, especially when coupled with supermarket wars driving down farm gate prices, and less favourable exchange rates.

Industry body BPEX said the latest hike in grain prices is having a dramatic impact on the cost of production for pig farmers, keeping the industry in loss.

Figures produced by BPEX Market Intelligence show producers are making a loss on every pig they sell and that doesn’t take into account the full effect of the huge rise in grain prices.

They are being paid about 150p per kg but that doesn’t cover the cost of raising the pig - 60% of which is feed, BPEX says.

“Things aren’t very good out there,” said Mr Butler.

“The price of wheat and the price of pigs don’t go together too well. The price of wheat is going up like the devil. It’s up past �200 a tonne.”

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He was managing to keep his head above water because he had forward-bought his feed, he said, but he has had to put up the prices on his premium pork products to cope with the increases.

“We have had to raise our prices because there’s no point me taking a loss,” he said.

“It’s gone down like a lead balloon, but my answer is if I don’t have enough to stay in business,t he won’t be able to buy free range pork.”

Many pig farmers would be “really hurting” by September/October, he said.

“Quite honestly, if they don’t alter it, there’ll be a lot of people going out of pigs,” he said.

Meanwhile, big UK supermarkets were driving prices down by continuously importing pigs. while in countries such as France, there was more loyalty to home-grown produce, he added.

“I would just love us to be as seriously patriotic as France,” he said.

Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) senior analyst Stephen Howarth said: “We have revisited our calculations for the cost of production and the losses per pig are still significant and unsustainable.

“Wheat prices have remained at extremely high levels and show no signs of easing substantially in the near future.”