UK: Small increase in bacon price now ‘will ward off massive increases next year’ - claim

Shoppers could be forced to fork out up to 60p more for a packet of eight sausages, 70p more for a standard pack of bacon or �2.50 extra for a pork roasting joint within months if mounting losses force more pig farmers out of business, it has been warned.

But small increases now in the price shoppers pay for bacon, sausages and ham will keep farmers in business and stave off these massive price increases according to a new report.

The report from pig levy payers’ organisation BPEX shows how modest retail price rises of as little as 7-14p on a pack of bacon today could keep responsible pig farmers who meet Red Tractor Assurance standards in business and avoid bigger price hikes for shoppers in the future.

Consumer research also published by BPEX suggests that consumers would be supportive of modest price rises with nearly two-thirds of people agreeing that it is right for consumers to pay a little more for responsibly produced food if farmers’ costs have increased due to circumstances outside their control.

Crop production around the world has been significantly affected by drought, driving up the cost of pig feed. Typically feed makes up 60-70 per cent of pig farmers’ costs, but dramatic price increases in the past months mean that pig farmers’ cost of production has soared to �1.70 per kilo. With the current price paid to farmers around �1.55 per kilo they are currently losing around �14 per pig reared. Without a price increase losses for the industry are set to hit �100 million over the next six months with many farmers likely to be forced out of business, BPEX warns.

Its estimates suggest that without price increases the pig herd in the UK and across Europe could be cut by 8-10 per cent over the coming months as farmers cut back production or are forced out of business.

A recent reduction in herd size in Germany of four per cent led to a 26p price increase per kilo paid to farmers. An eight per cent decrease could therefore lead to a price increase of around 50p per kilo. When translated into retail prices this would mean an increase of up to �1.40 on a pack of four pork chops, �2.50 on a leg roasting joint, 60p on a pack of sausages, 70p on a pack of bacon or 45p on a pack of sandwich ham.

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The report, entitled The Impact of Feed Costs on the English Pig Industry, shows how a far more modest increase of 10p now would return pig farmers to break even. This would result in an increase of just 16-28p in the retail price of a pack of pork chops, 6-12p on sausages and 7-14p on bacon.

Research conducted by YouGov for BPEX suggests consumers appreciate the need for small price increases. When told about the standards of animal welfare, traceability and food safety under the Red Tractor scheme 55 per cent of consumers said they would be prepared to pay a little more for pork, bacon or sausages produced responsibly by farmers who meet standards such as Red Tractor. 69 per cent agreed that Supermarkets should continue to support Red Tractor pig farmers and resist switching to supplies of cheaper imports which could be produced to lower standards. And 68 per cent of people also agreed that supermarkets should pay a little more for pork, bacon, sausages and ham to help Red Tractor pig farmers through the current crisis.

Andrew Knowles of BPEX said: “Cost of production has soared due to big increases in feed cost and yet again pig farmers are facing big losses. But a relatively modest increase of just a few pence now on the retail price would cut farmers’ losses and prevent massive increases to shoppers next year if pig production drops.

“It’s a difficult time to be talking about price increases with many consumers feeling the squeeze, which is why it’s so gratifying to see that consumers appreciate the need for small price increases and the majority are happy to pay a little bit more for pork, bacon and ham, produced responsibly by Red Tractor farmers.”