Waitrose has announced a £16 million support package to help beleaguered British pig farmers.
The retailer says it will cover the full cost of rearing and producing pigs – including labour, feed and fuels – in a move it hopes will offer its farmer suppliers financial security.
It comes amidst the ongoing crisis in the sector of thousands of pigs backing up on farms waiting for slaughter due to a lack of staff in abattoirs and meat processing plants.
This has been exacerbated by rising input costs, with the NFU south of the border and the National Pig Association (NPA) recently warning the British pig sector was perilously close to collapse.
Last month the two organisations said the industry has lost an estimated £250m as a result of these labour shortages and rising input costs – driven by the Ukraine war – could push many pig producers out of business.
Announcing the retailer’s support package, Waitrose executive director James Bailey said: “Farmers are the backbone of Britain, keeping food on our tables during our country’s hour of need through a pandemic. 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.
“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.”
He said he hoped the support package would enable the retailer, which sources pork from more than 250 British pig farmers, to keep working with pig producers for decades to come, and called on other retailers to follow suit.
“This issue is industry-wide and we need the entire food industry and the British public to get behind us,” added Mr Bailey.
“If we don’t stand united in supporting UK pork farmers and act soon, many businesses will be lost.”
NFU president Minette Batters welcomed the funding package and said many farmers were leaving the sector because they can’t afford to keep their businesses afloat.
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.”
An NPA spokesperson backed the call for other retailers to offer pig farmers support and said: “British pig farmers produce pork to high standards but cannot continue to do so at such a significant financial loss.
“Waitrose has demonstrated their commitment and we now need other retailers to do the same before it is too late.”