Supermarkets Could Trigger Pork Shortage

by 5m Editor
25 October 2011, at 10:49am

UK - A massive shortage of fresh pork could result from short-sighted policies of major supermarkets, predicts Matthew Curtis, managing director of Yorkshire-based pig-breeding company, ACMC Ltd.

"The Dutch-based Rabobank, which is involved in global food and financing, suggests that the EU sow herd will reduce by seven per cent as a result of the ban on the use of inhumane sow stalls at the end of next year. This represents 1.2 million sows, which would be producing around 2.1 million tonnes of pig meat per annum," Mr Curtis said. Many European farmers will not be prepared to make the investment in new systems, leading to a production short-fall.

Matthew Curtis

This could present a major opportunity for British pig farmers to expand. They have had welfare-friendly housing systems for over 10 years but are currently losing 16 pence per kg – about 313 per pig – on every animal they produce because most British supermarkets do not pay a realistic rate for their pig meat. Many rely on cheap imports produced under systems outlawed in the UK years ago.

Yet this does not have to be the case, maintains Mr Curtis. He points out that Morrisons supermarket has reported an amazing 39 per cent increase in pork sales in the past year as British shoppers are turning to pork joints as a cheaper alternative to beef and lamb.

"This is not surprising in a time of recession given that the average retail price of pork is 369.4p per kg compared with 592.5p per kg for beef and 768.9p per kg for lamb. What is surprising is that Morrisons are paying the highest price to farmers for their pigs. If they can do it, why can't others?" Mr Curtis asks.

"Supermarkets may argue that they are fighting food inflation," but he believes that this is short-term thinking.

"Pig farmers cannot sustain these losses. If they drive domestic pig producers out of business, then there will be huge inflation in the price of pig meat. They will simply be killing the goose that laid the golden egg," added Mr Curtis.

Sow herd reductions in the EU could result in a pork shortage if supermarkets do not support British farmers.