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Rising feed costs could force Lincolnshire pig farmers out of business

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: October 11, 2012

The NFU says its latest survey has revealed the lowest wheat yields since the 1980s

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Lincolnshire pig farmers could be forced out of business as rising costs squeeze their margins, according to industry experts.

There are fears farmers may decide to leave the industry as animal feed prices rocket after poor global grain yields.

Failing maize and soya crops in the USA and Russia have put pressure on world farming and are pushing food prices up around the world.

Low domestic wheat yields are also putting pressure on UK food costs, according to the National Farmers' Union (NFU).

The wettest summer to hit England for 100 years is being blamed for the problems, which have also troubled vegetable crops in Lincolnshire.

The NFU says its latest survey has revealed the lowest wheat yields since the 1980s, with levels down 14 per cent on a five-year average.

The body's regional spokesman Alison Pratt explained while supermarket prices for pork remained stable, pig rearing costs were squeezing their margins.

"With wheat rising from around £150 per tonne last year to up to £210 this year, it has had a considerable impact on pig and poultry farmers," she said. "Some pigs farmers are worried about their futures and praying and hoping they can keep going."

Around 70 per cent of the cost of rearing pigs now comes from their feed and the industry has halved in size over the last 14 years.

Alastair Priestley, managing director of Patrick Dean Ltd, near Bracebridge Heath, supplies pigs to supermarkets.

He says although his business is healthy, despite taking a hit this year, other farms face tough futures.

"We are fortunate because we are sheltered to some extent, but for some businesses it's having a huge impact," he said. "Some farms are not making any money at the moment.

"If the supply goes down and demand stays the same we could see consumer pork prices rise over the next 12 months."

Meryl Ward, of Ermine Farms in Lincolnshire, said her pig enterprise was being helped by policies from its customer Sainsbury's.

She added that although some crops had experienced a "disastrous" year, there was a good future for farmers who could innovate.

The British Retail Consortium warned of price "pressures" following the worst drought in 50 years in the US and a heatwave in Russia.

Spokesman Richard Dodd said: "Our own figures for the shop price inflation for food show that it has been very, very stable – it has been 3.1 per cent for the last three months which is actually a two-year low.

"There is no food price explosion going on but there are pressures in the system that will work through."

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