Suffolk: Pig farmers call to ‘save our bacon’

PIG farmers in Suffolk are facing a looming crisis with rising feed prices putting producers at risk of going out of business, it has been claimed.

Many are losing up to �20 for every pig they sell to supermarkets so are backing a major publicity drive to remind shoppers to buy high-welfare British pork, bacon and sausages.

Suffolk pig farmers have joined the national Banners Blitz campaign, placing huge 15ft banners in roadside fields with slogans such as “Yes! Yes! Yes! to British Pork” and “Made in Britain – perfect British bacon”.

East Anglia is one of the UK’s strongholds of pig farming. In 2009, there were 414,000 registered pigs in Suffolk and the county has more than 100 specialist producers.

But farmers are coming under increasing financial strain because the price of feed-wheat has more than doubled in the past few months to �200 a tonne because of poor harvests around the world.

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This has increased the cost of feeding pigs by 50% – but most supermarkets and processors are currently paying less, rather than more.

Pig farmers currently only receive �1.37 per kg but need �1.64 per kg just to break even.

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They say that more customers choosing to buy British would provide a big boost to the industry and force supermarkets to pay producers more. Otherwise, many producers say they may have to quit the business – leading to even higher prices for consumers.

Pig farmers are planning to travel to Westminster on March 3 for a rally to raise Government awareness of the issue.

Jimmy and Alastair Butler, of the award-winning Blythburgh Pork, are among those raising the profile of the campaign.

Alastair Butler said: “Many shoppers are already pretty loyal when it comes to choosing British pork, because they know it is higher quality.

“I want to remind people that while we look after our pigs according to rigorous standards, farmers in other countries do not have to.

“The aim of this campaign is to persuade them to make an extra effort to choose British rather than anonymous lower-welfare imported pork.”

He added: “We need supermarkets to pay pig farmers enough to cover the cost of producing this high-welfare pork.

“At the moment supermarkets and most processors are making large profits - but most pig farmers are losing around �20 on every pig they sell.”

Keith Poulson, a member of the National Pig Association who works at Rattlerow Farms at Stradbroke, said: “This is the lull before the storm as we can’t go on like this.

“We need to convince consumers to buy British, which will encourage the retailers to give pig producers more money. There certainly could be better labelling on British meat to help.”

The campaign banners display British farming’s Red Tractor symbol, which shows food has been produced on British farms to high welfare, environmental and safety standards.

Over 270 banners are in place in England. More sites are being offered every day and the Banners Blitz campaign should reach its peak by late spring.

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