Suffolk/Essex: Concerns over pig farmers going out of business

Pigs at Blythburgh Pig Farm.

Pigs at Blythburgh Pig Farm.

There are growing concerns about the number of pig farmers being forced out of business, according to a livestock auctioneer with 40 years experience.

Peter Crichton runs a valuation, auction and consultancy company in Bury St Edmunds. He said the cost of rearing pigs in Suffolk and north Essex was higher compared to Europe because of the UK’s higher welfare standards.

“The farmers cannot keep losing money that’s the problem,” Mr Crichton said.

“Supermarkets work very hard to get prices down for customers and so it’s very difficult for farmers to get a margin because of the competitive prices out there.

“European pig production is generally lower welfare and more intensive than our industry. We are in an economic downturn and people are being more cautious with their weekly spend. That’s why it’s difficult to promote the higher welfare food because of the cost.

“The price of wheat is at about £175 per tonne, last year it was £200 per tonne but it’s still very expensive.”

He added that pig farmers were making a loss of about £4 on every animal sold.

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He said he had seen some large pig farms go out of business across the region.

“There’s been a significant reduction of pig herds in Essex and in the county they are a rarity anyway,” Mr Crichton added.

Jimmy Butler a partner of Blythburgh Free Range Pork had similar concerns.

He said: “The price of wheat has gone through the roof. Outdoor pigs require twice the amount of straw than indoor pigs.

“Wheat is a world commodity and there’s been producing countries that have gone through droughts.

“The outlook for wheat has probably never looked worse. It was short last year and it looks like it is going to be short again this year.”