Supermarket offers welcome relief to Cumbrian pig farming company
Last updated at 15:33, Friday, 28 September 2012
Pig farming is in crisis with producers losing £12 on every animal – but a supermarket is proving the unlikely saviour of one Cumbrian company.
Penrith-based Dent Limited has 15 farmers keeping 20,000 pigs on a ‘bed and breakfast’ basis in Cumbria.
Most of the meat goes to Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range. Four weeks ago, the supermarket increased the price it pays to Dent Limited and a small number of other suppliers in response to huge feed price hikes.
November prices for wheat have reached £205 per tonne while soya, the other major staple of the pig ration, is around £400 per tonne.
David Neal, production manager of Dent Limited, said: “We’re having to buy feed on a weekly and a monthly basis, it’s too risky and volatile to buy the feed forward.
“Most farmers find that September is the cheapest time to buy feed in and we looked like we were going to have a decent harvest in May time.
“But with the poor harvest in Russia and the American drought, wheat prices have soared. Soya has gone up in the last year by about £150 per tonne and wheat is up £70 to £80.
“We supply Sainsbury’s which has increased our price but not enough to cancel out the rise in cereal prices.
“They have given us a gesture which has helped us. They raised the price about four weeks ago and this will be reviewed in eight weeks.”
The average price paid for fattened pigs is 150p per kilo, some way short of the cost of production. Dent Limited owns the pigs and pays for the feed while farmers provide the housing, bedding straw and husbandry.
Mr Neal added: “Our farmers get paid whatever happens as they keep the pigs on a bed and breakfast basis. The straw harvest was very good this year which should send the price down and help them.
“There was nearly twice as much straw to the acre as last year. The farmers pay for the straw and we pay for the feed.
“They will never make a fortune but we will take the losses in times like this.”
A European-wide stall ban coming into force in January is likely to lead to a shortage of pig meat that meets the standard already adhered to in Britain.
“It will be reflected in price, which is the only thing we have to cling on to,” added Mr Neal.
“Our feed bills are getting higher, our credit terms with the feed manufacturers are getting bigger. If the price does come right, we’ll be paying off the debt from the last 12 months.
“We meet with Sainsbury’s about five times a year. They are trying to help and trying to understand farming. They know they need farmers there in 10 years’ time.
“We have to start thinking about how we feed Britain again. I think we need to be hungry again to appreciate food.”
Levy body BPEX estimates that 10,000 more sows were culled since June than in the same period last year as farmers exit the industry.
Producers of seven-kilo piglets, at the foot of the chain, are leaving the industry first, heralding a shortage of fattened pigs in the months to come.
First published at 13:55, Friday, 28 September 2012
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk
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