Cranswick, one of the UK’s largest pork producers, has called for government action to save the pig industry after feed price rises added to labour shortages to place farmers under “unsustainable strain”.
Adam Couch, chief executive of the listed group, said ministers must do more in the coming months to ensure that the UK had a “viable long-term pig farming industry”.
A jump in cereal prices of more than 50 per cent after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed up the price of feed, which accounts for most of the cost of raising a pig. This had added to problems in the sector caused by post-Brexit shortages of skilled butchers, said Cranswick.
The company said it had “partially reflected” these higher input costs in the price it paid to both its own farming operations and third-party producers.
The Hull-based group said it had suggested actions the government could take, including cutting exports of soft — or agricultural — commodities such as grain.
“We have suggested ways to mitigate these challenges, including reducing exports of soft commodities and their use in bioethanol production, which have not been acted on,” said Couch.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Butcher shortages since late last year had already led to a backlog of more than 100,000 pigs on farms after post-Brexit immigration changes curbed arrivals of workers from continental Europe.
That backlog has reduced somewhat but has eaten into farmers’ finances as they were forced to feed additional animals and accept penalties from processors for their excess weight.
Cranswick’s warning comes after Tesco on May 16 announced £10mn in extra funding for UK pig farmers to help with the crisis.
About 80 per cent of pig farmers in the UK have said they will not survive the next 12 months if conditions fail to improve, the National Pig Association said ahead of that announcement.
Ministers have brought in measures including a private storage scheme for pig carcasses and an allocation late last year of emergency visas for butchers, but the pig sector has continued to call for further action.
Cranswick’s call came as it reported a 13.2 per cent rise in pre-tax profit to £130mn on revenues of £2bn in the year to March, up 5.3 per cent from a year earlier.
The company, which produces fresh pork, bacon, sausages, poultry and continental foods, maintained its guidance for the full year despite “challenging” trading conditions, as it succeeded in passing on the majority of cost increases to its customers.
Shares in the group rose 3.1 per cent to £32.56 in early trading.