Pig farmers pledge to continue Tesco battle

SEVEN Suffolk pig farmers who took part in a demonstration against Tesco are vowing to continue their protest until the retailer reacts by increasing how much it pays for British pork.

Workers representing the agricultural sector from all over the UK attended a rally in Nottingham on July 1. Demonstrators lined up outside the East Midlands Conference Centre where Tesco’s annual meeting took place.

The British Pig Industry Support Group, which organised the protest, said farmers were losing about �10 on every pig sold due to the high cost of feed. The organisation is calling for an immediate 10p a kilo price rise to try to help them break even.

Jimmy Butler, owner of Blythburgh Free Range Pork, said he would continue to fight for “fair” payment from Tesco until the retailer responded to farmers’ complaints. Following Friday’s protest, he said: “I think this demonstration has made an impact. The one thing Tesco doesn’t like is negative publicity so perhaps they will listen to us now we have showed them we will demonstrate.

“If things don’t change, there will be further demonstrations. We are going to fight for this because the whole industry is totally unfair.

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“At the end of the day we have to make ourselves heard by the multi-national retailers.”

Another farmer who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It is cheaper to buy abroad and it is getting to the stage that pig farming is not sustainable on what we are being paid.

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“People look to Tesco and the market pays what it pays. They need to think very carefully and realise if they want this industry the way it is, then they need to pay for it. They can’t keep paying farmers these prices and reporting these huge profits.”

Both farmers said the difference in welfare conditions imposed on those rearing pigs in the UK compared to others in the European Union meant British pork was more expensive.

Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, agreed, adding: “Something must be done to improve things for our farmers.”

Tesco hit back at criticism, emphasising its commitment to retailing British meat.

A spokesman for the company said: “We are proud to be British farming’s biggest customer, buying more British pork than any other retailer, with 70% of our fresh pork and 100% of our Finest sausages and bacon from UK farms.

“We have recently increased the price we pay for pork products from the processors we buy from. We are also working with the pig industry, just as we do other producer groups, to help suppliers deal with rising costs while ensuring prices are competitive for customers in challenging times.”

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