Pig farming could become a thing of the past in Gloucestershire
PIG farming could soon be a thing of the past in Gloucestershire as farmers struggle with supermarket cost demands and cheap competition from Europe.
James Hart, who runs a farm near Cirencester, used to grow crops and keep pigs.
But because of cheaper production on the continent, increasing labour costs and supermarkets seeking to buy the cheapest meat possible, he had to close his pig operation.
Now he is strictly agrarian and believes there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when Gloucestershire no longer has any pig farms.
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Mr Hart said the UK now had half the number of pigs that it did in the mid-1990s and that figure could go even lower.
When asked if there will come a time when there are no longer any large-scale pig farmers in Gloucestershire, his answer was a simple one.
“Essentially yes,” he said. “It is virtually that way now anyway.”
Mr Hart said the competition from Europe was well documented but that in recent years it had been supermarket pressure which had a real impact on the industry.
He said: “The concerns are well known in terms of our production standards compared with other countries. There has been a push for everyone in the EU to be on an even playing field but we are not quite there at the moment.
“I used to have 12 staff with the pigs and I now have none and I don’t have any pigs at all – that was after 40 years of pigs and that was in part because of the EU and the spike in food costs.
“Food cost is a massive part of keeping pigs because it used to be 60 per cent of your costs but that has gone up to 70 per cent.”
Mr Hart also said investment is a problem.
“There is not the long-term vision and planning in the meat industry so, for example, I cannot get long-term security,” he said.
“I could have invested but the fact is I might lose money and that is no way to do business.”
The combination of all of these factors has led to a situation where “most people think they are eating British pork because it has been packed in this country but in all likelihood it is foreign meat”, said Mr Hart.
“If you want cheap food it comes from the cheapest source,” he added.
“It is a great sadness that we are not producing pork in this county and in this country because we simply cannot produce it at a low enough cost.
“I suppose that we will never get back to having the numbers we used to have.”