29th August 2012: Andrew Brons has been asked by a number of his constituents to support the campaign to help Britain's Pig Farmers.
One farmer from South Yorkshire wrote:
"Bacon is Britain’s favourite food, according to a recent independent survey. But harvest failure around the world has pushed the cost of pig-feed to unprecedented levels over the past month and British pig-farmers are now in very serious trouble.
"Your support will be hugely helpful in our 'Save Our Bacon' drive to persuade the nation's shoppers to choose only bacon with the independent British Red Tractor logo on the pack. This will push up demand and encourage retailers to pay farmers a fair price that covers their costs of production.
"It takes eight months to produce a bacon pig, so farmers cannot respond instantly to changes in market conditions. Our only option is to sell-up, or struggle on, selling our stock at a loss. And it will take too long - another six months - for retail prices to reflect these much-higher production costs.
"Unlike most farmers, pig farmers do not receive European Union agricultural subsidies for their pig enterprises, so we really do need the nation’s help. Any support and publicity you can give our cause, both in and out of Parliament, will be valuable."
Responding to numerous letters on the same theme, Andrew's Constituency Office manager replied:
"Mr Brons is a keen supporter of British farming and is well aware of difficulties facing our pig farmers due to Britain's continued membership of the European Union.
"We will post an article on his website encouraging people to buy British bacon and Andrew and his team will be happy to support the 'save our bacon' campaign in other ways, should you have any suggestions."
Ten things you didn’t know about British bacon
By the National Pig Association
1. Bacon is Britain’s favourite - According to the British Top 100 Foods Index compiled by Food Network UK, bacon is Britain’s favourite food.
2. The future of British bacon is under threat this summer - Harvest failure around the world has made pig-feed so expensive that more British pig-farmers are quitting every week because of mounting losses.
3. Shoppers can save delicious British bacon for future generations - If all shoppers make a special effort to choose bacon with the independent British Red Tractor logo they will push up demand and retailers will have to pay farmers a price that covers their costs of production.
4. Why British bacon is the best in the world - British pig farmers are acknowledged world leaders in higher welfare pig husbandry — and research proves that happier, stress-free pigs make better bacon.
5. Britain is only 25 percent self-sufficient in bacon - Most shops and supermarkets sell mainly imported bacon which is usually produced on more intensive farms and is cheaper — sometimes they package it to make it look like British bacon.
6. Farmers who produce British bacon do not receive subsidies -
Unlike most farmers, British pig farmers do not receive European Union agricultural subsidies for their pig enterprises.
7. Britain’s pig farms are on a knife-edge - Pig farming is a difficult way to make a living. It takes eight months to produce a bacon pig, and another six months for retail prices to reflect higher production costs
- so pig farmers cannot respond instantly to changes in market conditions such as the current feed-cost crisis.
8. Shoppers reward supermarkets that support British farmers - One retailer, which sells only British bacon, has seen its sales increase faster than any other retailer but some supermarkets don’t care where their supplies are coming from tomorrow... they are only interested in piling it high and selling it cheap today.
9. Supplies of cheap imported bacon will soon start to dwindle - New European Union welfare rules come into force in January to force continental pig farmers up to the high welfare standards already used by British farmers. Thousands of farmers won’t be able to afford the changes and will quit production instead.
10. Buying British Red Tractor bacon safeguards British sausages too - Pork pies, sausages, Sunday roasts, chops, ham and spare-ribs all come from the same pigs as bacon... so when shoppers make a special effort to choose British Red Tractor bacon they are supporting the whole British higher-welfare pig industry.
National Pig Association, Agriculture House, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2LZ Tel: 02476 85 8780 Fax: 02476 85 8786 Website: www.npa-uk.net
National Pig Association briefing note on the current state of the British pig industry
(The following is a summary of a briefing note prepared for Government.)
• There has been a world-wide escalation in the price of feed grains and vegetable proteins, particularly wheat and soya, due to poor weather conditions and harvest forecasts as well as increasing demand from developing countries such as China. As a result, the price of wheat has increased in the last six months from £165 to £193 and soya is trading at £368 having risen greatly from £204/tonne in December.
• Consequently pig feed, which represents 65 % of the cost of producing a pig, has risen 25 percent in the last few weeks – an unprecedented increase, in an unprecedented short period of time. The average cost of production per kilo of pig meat is £1.62p/kg, whilst producers are currently receiving 1.50p/kg, leaving a loss of 12p/kg, around £9 per pig produced.
• Pig producers cannot absorb these losses for long and week by week are now leaving the industry. A recent survey completed by National Pig Association of 60 members representing 30 percent of national weekly pigmeat production showed we could lose 10 percent of production by Christmas if producer prices do not rise.
• The price of pork will indeed rise as production reduces, but experience tells us this will take around six months, and most pig farmers simply cannot last that long at their current rate of loss.
• Pig producers continue to improve efficiency parameters but there is little that can be done to mitigate the current dramatic rise in feed prices. All producers are monitoring the futures markets and assessing the likely impacts on their business and a number have already decided to stop production.
• We are not merely losing the less efficient farmers. These are serious businesses that are leaving the industry and they will be a great loss to the British economy, particularly the rural economy.
• NPA has already lost 7,000 sows from membership from people going out of pigs this year and there are more leaving every day – three this week, including two members of the board of the British Pig Executive. In addition, we are aware of several large-scale producers who have already started to cull sows. Due to the long-term timescales of pig production the effect of these reductions will only be felt at retail level in 8-12 months’ time.
• This is not just a United Kingdom issue and we will also see many producers leave the European Union pig industry as well. Whilst economically a drop in continental production would be welcome, we are obviously keen to retain as many British pig producers as we possibly can, especially as Britain is only 40 percent self-sufficient in pigmeat.
• Pig producers will continue to strive to improve their efficiency further, especially their management of pig nutrition), and abattoirs and processors will seek to obtain as much value from the market as possible. However, the scale of the threat posed by higher feed costs makes it quite impossible to offset current losses solely through efficiency gains.
• NPA has begun a two-pronged approach. We are engaging with the supply chain at both retail and foodservice level, and we hope to see some successes in due course.
• And we have launched our ‘Save Our Bacon’ campaign to persuade consumers to support British bacon, sausages and pork, and already we have had excellent coverage for this campaign in the media, both nationally and regionally.
• We are urging shoppers to support British to stimulate demand by looking for the independent Red Tractor logo when they shop. If we can stimulate better demand for British product, prices will rise as British supplies are tight.
• For our supply chain discussions, there are several areas which we would like to address with retailers/food service companies including the need to ensure that producers and processors have the confidence to stay in business and to invest in the future. This will benefit retailers, food service and consumers.
• Retailers and food service companies should also undertake a high profile campaign to promote greater awareness and understanding of Red Tractor pork and pork products (along with other Red Tractor meat and dairy products).
• And there is potential for them to help manage volatility in costs through contractual arrangements that cover the changes in feed costs. Closer cooperation between producers, processors and retail and food service customers will drive more efficient supply chains and result in mutual commitment and loyalty.
• In particular we are asking for your support as a Member of Parliament. Please email us to say you support our ‘Save Our Bacon’ campaign. This alone will help us get our message across to consumers at large and will help us save the British pig industry as a vibrant sector which makes a significant contribution to the British economy.