Blythburgh: Pig farmer warns of pork and bacon shortages

A leading East Anglian free-range pork producer has warned that bacon and pork shortages are on the horizon.

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Blythburgh Free Range Pork owner Jimmy Butler, who runs 2,000 outdoor sows at Blythburgh, between Halesworth and Southwold, warned of a looming shortage of pork and bacon by the middle of next year as pig farmers struggle to stay in business as the industry had seen dramatic increases in feed costs.

“Within nine months pork and bacon will be in very short supply,” he said.

“This is a global problem and producers in the United States have been making very large reductions in pig numbers.”

Although costs of key ingredients including soya have eased very slightly, producers at home and abroad were still losing money on every finished pig. He said that sows were being culled but it took at least nine months to turn off the production tap, said Mr Butler.

His son, Alastair, explained that their customers had helped to shoulder some of the rapid rise in feed costs.

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“We’ve been able to maintain our production and we’re selling everything with a free-range premium at the moment. Our big problem is that we have to be aware of the overall pig price. It has not been easy because there’s a gap between our pork and standard pork,” he said.

“Fingers crossed and touching wood, we’re still selling 800 free range pigs a week and realising that premium for them. As a business, we’re in a stronger position. We’ve have not been able to fully compensate our higher costs but have been able to cover a bit of it.

“Where supermarkets have not been supporting the British pig farmer, our supply chain has supported us.

“They’ve understood that we’ve got rising costs and they’ve accepted some price increases and they’re working with us to tell their customers too.”

With many producers losing between �15 and �20 on a finished pig, Mr Butler said that the producers were extremely worried about the future direction of feed costs.

While the dairy industry had been pushed to the brink, the pig and poultry sector was racking up significant losses, he added.

Blythburgh Free Range, which was launched by Mr Butler in 2000, has seen a significant expansion as it moved away from supplying the supermarkets to work with specialist butchers and caterers.

All the sows and piglets are finished on a free-range system.

“In the coming months, pork will not be as freely available as it used to be. Pork will go through the roof – possibly not as much as beef and lamb already have,” said Alastair.

“There will be some significant price movement and people will just have to accept it. We’re in a global economy, China is eating more pork and importing it.”