EU sow stall ban to push up pork prices

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The price of bacon and sausages could jump by up to 20% next year as an EU-wide ban on sow stalls comes into force, bringing European producers into line with the UK. Sow stalls are crates in which pregnant female pigs are confined to make it easier to feed them.

Sow stalls have already been banned in the UK since 1999, and British pig farmers will be happy that there will be more of a level playing field from 1 January - although there are questions marks over how well the ban will be policed.
The ban comes at a critical time for British farmers, with supermarkets forcing down pork prices while the cost of pig feed is going up due to a spike in grain prices.

UK producers are urging shoppers to 'buy British'. Only 40% of Britain's pig meat is produced domestically while the rest is imported from other EU countries.
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Across Europe, the industry is in crisis. Just three other EU countries say they already comply with the new EU rules and others have warned that the ban could force scores of producers out of business, the Observer reported.

BPEX, which represents British pig farmers, has warned that EU pork production - currently at 20 million tonnes a year - will probably drop by between 5% and 10% when the ban comes into force, which would mean hefty price hikes for consumers. Last year another piece of animal welfare legislation - a ban on battery cages in the EU - pushed up the price of eggs by 75%.

BPEX says wholesale prices are likely to rise by at least 10%, or even up to 20% if production is cut back drastically.

According to BPEX, the most likely scenario is a 5% reduction in production over the next 18 months or so. Past experience suggests that this would push farmgate pig prices at least 10% higher than they otherwise would have been, and some estimate an even larger effect, explains Stephen Howarth, senior pigs analyst at AHDB Market Intelligence, who wrote most of the report.

"How that would feed through to pork prices (retail or wholesale) would depend on decisions taken by meat processors and retailers about the extent to which they pass any price increases on to their customers. Given that pig producers are currently suffering due to high feed prices, the actual fall in production may end up being even larger (and hence the price increase more significant) but the scale of this isn't yet clear."

While any price rises are certainly annoying for consumers, isn't the improved welfare of animals worth paying for? Now is the time to buy British.

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