UK retailer Waitrose invests £16m in struggling pig farmers

Labour shortages, export challenges have lead to a backlog of livestock
calendar icon 13 May 2022
clock icon 3 minute read

Waitrose announced in a recent press release a further support package for its British pork farmers of up to £16 million (USD $7.4 million), as the industry faces its biggest crisis in a generation.

Since the autumn, foreign exports of pork have fallen significantly and, with supply far outstripping demand, caused the price of meat to plummet. At the same time, production costs have risen sharply, with the cost of feed rising steeply as a result of the war in Ukraine. As a result, many British pork farmers are struggling to stay afloat.

The issue has been further compounded by a shortage of trained butchers in the UK, meaning farmers cannot process their existing livestock, resulting in a further loss of sales. As a result, the National Farmers' Union estimates that tens of thousands of pigs have now been culled, with the meat being discarded rather than sold for food, jeopardising the future of the sector.

The move means the full cost of rearing and producing pigs - including labour, feed, and fuel - will be covered.

“Farmers are the backbone of Britain, keeping food on our tables during our country’s hour of need through a pandemic," said James Bailey, Waitrose’s

executive director. "But now, they need our help."

“This investment is a direct response to some of the most challenging conditions the pig sector has ever faced," he continued. "This is not only the right thing to do, it will ensure we continue to pay our farmers a fair price while maintaining our quality and high welfare standards. My hope is that this will enable us to keep working with them for decades to come, but we can't do it alone. This issue is industry-wide and we need the entire food industry and the British public to get behind us. If we don’t stand united in supporting UK pork farmers and act soon, many businesses will be lost.”

Minette Batters, farmer and president of the National Farmers Union, said UK farmers are leaving the sector on a daily basis because they cannot afford to keep their businesses afloat.

“Waitrose has acted thoughtfully and the move will inject much needed confidence for their farmers," she said. "We need all supermarkets to take similar action and create support packages that will genuinely come to the aid of British pig farmers in their hour of need – the rapid rise in farm costs need to be met or we risk supply into next year. I hope this move will inspire others to stand by the country’s farmers, we owe them our support.”

Waitrose said it sources pork from over 250 British pig farms, many of whom they've worked with for over 30 years.

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