Food and farming minister Lord Rooker has assured Britain’s hard-pressed pig producers that the government would act against any attempts to profiteer from the increased feed costs further along the retail chain at the expense of farmers.
Speaking last week at the House of Lords, where he presented the David Black Award for a sustained contribution to the British pig industry to pig producer Richard Longthorp, Rooker said: “Increases in feed will feed through to increases in retail prices - there is no doubt of that.” Over the past year pig feed prices have almost doubled, the British Pig Executive (BPEX) has reported.
But, added Rooker: “We will ensure there is no racketeering at these times of stress. People deserve a fair return.” He recognised the considerable achievements made by the pig sector and warned that unless it was properly looked after it would disappear. He also accepted that considerable damage had been inflicted by the recent foot and mouth disease outbreak.
In his acceptance speech, Longthorp said: “Primary producers need higher prices to cover [increased feed] costs but are constantly being told that ‘the market will sort it out eventually’”. He added: “Are we really saying that, for something as important as food, the only way that we can get a price increase to help cover unprecedented feed cost inflation, is to wait until another 50% of pig production has been lost and pig meat is in chronic undersupply?”
Chairman of BPEX Stewart Houston said: “The industry truly is at a crossroads. The damage that foot and mouth disease has done to producers and processors cannot be underestimated.” He called for more support for the sector, which he described as being “under the cosh”. While he welcomed the response of some supermarkets, such as Morrison, to commit to buying 100% British pork, he described the price increases by the supply chain as a whole as “modest”
Morrison chief executive Marc Bolland said: “We recognise the issues facing pig farmers, so we are paying above market price on pork.”