Pig producers face squeeze

A FINANCIAL squeeze is forcing many UK pig producers to the edge, a survey has found.A poll by the National Pig Association has revealed that a massive 95% of UK pig farmers are considering halting production as a “very grim” financial year takes its toll.

By Sarah Chambers

A FINANCIAL squeeze is forcing many UK pig producers to the edge, a survey has found.

A poll by the National Pig Association has revealed that a massive 95% of UK pig farmers are considering halting production as a “very grim” financial year takes its toll.

The high cost of feed, coupled with movement and export bans and restrictions caused by foot-and-mouth, is bringing many to the brink.


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The survey found that 24% of farmers said they estimated they could only continue producing pigs for one to three months if they don't get a better price, 26% saying up to six months and 22% think they can hold out for a year.

It is estimated that the industry is losing £6 a second, amounting to £3.6million a week for Britain's estimated 1,400 pig farms, the National Pig Association says.

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Bury St Edmunds-based pig industry consultant Peter Crichton described the situation as “very grim”

“It's not Armageddon or Farmageddon, but it is very serious,” he said.

“The majority are losing money in large quantities every week.”

While the price of wheat this year had rocketed to £150 or £160 a tonne from about £80 a year ago, the price of pigs had remained static or even come down, he said.

“The margin was very small last year,” he said. “Most producers I talk to, with a few exceptions, are losing money.”

Although some supplying Waitrose and other “top end” retailers were still holding up, around a half to three quarters of pig producers were “haemorrhaging money at the moment”, he estimated.

“It's worse than that because they can't afford to get out,” he said.

He knew of a large pig concern in Humberside and another in Norfolk that were going out of business, while another in Norfolk was hoping to avoid administration, he said.

There was a backlog of more than 40,000 sows waiting to be exported once the restrictions are lifted, and meanwhile prices were falling in Europe because of the sudden glut, he added.

Pig producer Jimmy Butler, of Blythburgh Free Range Pigs, said the industry was suffering.

“We are just bleeding for the sake of it. Our feed costs have virtually doubled,” he said. “It's very serious out there.”

Although as a Waitrose supplier, he was holding up because of their pricing policy, there were others who were not doing so well, and many would be looking at coming out of pig production, he said.

“There are many, many who are thinking about it, and it isn't just idle talk because you can only stand losing £10, £12, £14 a pig for so long,” he said.

Barney Kay, general manager of the National Pig Association, said: “These survey results show us just how precarious the industry is as many farmers are seriously considering terminating production permanently. If this were to happen, the UK pig herd will be decimated irrevocably. It's much worse even than foot-and-mouth.”

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