Ninety per cent of sows could go next year

UK - Over 90 percent of the British pig breeding herd could disappear in the next 12 months.
calendar icon 18 October 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Until today it had been thought that only a third of production would disappear.

But a pig industry census conducted on this website has provided the first authoritative information about the pending exodus from the industry.

Asked “How long do you think you can go on producing pigs if the price you receive does not improve?” producers representing over a quarter of the British pig breeding herd replied as follows:

  • 35 percent said between one and three months.
  • 31 percent said up to six months.
  • 26 percent said six months to a year.

But despite this clear message from pig producers, high-welfare British pork, bacon, ham and sausages may not be about to disappear from supermarket shelves.

The following reasons give grounds for some optimism that the industry can be saved:

  • Cull sow exports should be able to resume in a few days (admittedly this is a double-edged sword).
  • In a few days the European Commission will probably announce a storage-aid and export-subsidy scheme.
  • Tesco has started feeding extra money into its supply chain.
  • Morrisons' all-British fresh pork pledge will help firm prices.
  • Another important announcement is expected any hour from one of the big four retailers.

According to the census 48 percent of pig-keepers have a feed contract. Some contracts are due to expire almost immediately, whilst others have locked in for a year. The mean average period is seven months.

Forty-one percent are paying over 50 percent more for their feed compared to last year.

  • 22 percent are paying up to 25 percent more.
  • 31 percent are paying 26-30 percent more.

Nine percent of pig-keepers have already stopped producing pigs, 24 percent are considering stopping and 60 percent will seriously consider stopping production if they don’t get higher prices soon.

However 6 percent say they will continue production regardless.

Although 44 percent blame the supermarkets for the current crisis, a larger number — 46 percent — say the crisis is nobody’s fault, it is simply due to high feed prices. Five percent say farmers themselves are to blame.

In answer to the question “Which of the following represents the biggest threat to British pig farming?” 71 percent identified losses due to high feed prices. Others also singled out imports (19 percent) and foot and mouth (16 percent).

Acknowledgement: BPEX helped to collate these results.

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