Waitrose pledges £16m support for farmers in greatest crisis in generation

Waitrose has announced a further support package for its British pork farmers of up to £16m, as the industry faces its biggest catastrophe in a generation.

Since the Autumn, foreign exports of pork have fallen significantly and, with supply far outstripping demand, caused the price of meat to plummet. At the same time, production costs have risen sharply, with the cost of feed rising steeply as a result of the war in Ukraine - meaning that many British pork farmers are struggling to stay afloat.

The issue has been further compounded by a shortage of trained butchers in the UK, meaning farmers cannot process their existing livestock, resulting in a further loss of sales. As a result, the National Farmers' Union estimates that tens of thousands of pigs have now been culled, with the meat being discarded rather than sold for food, jeopardising the future of the sector.

The move means we will cover the full cost of rearing and producing pigs - including labour, feed, and fuel - offering our farmers financial security when others are being forced out of the sector. The commitment will not detract from our promise to provide great value for customers or our pledge to always maintain our leading welfare standards.

Waitrose’s executive director, James Bailey stated, “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.

'My hope is that this will enable us to keep working with them for decades to come, but we can't do it alone. This issue is industry-wide and we need the entire food industry and the British public to get behind us. If we don’t stand united in supporting UK pork farmers and act soon, many businesses will be lost.”

Minette Batters, farmer and President of the NFU, said, “Every day we’re seeing farmers leaving the sector because they simply can’t afford to keep their businesses afloat. Waitrose has acted thoughtfully and the move will inject much needed confidence for their farmers.

'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.”

Rob Mutimer, Chair of the National Pig Association, commented, “NPA welcomes the announcement from Waitrose and their recognition that they need to pay a fair price to their supplying farmers to ensure that they can continue to source British pork for their customers.

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.”

Victoria Prentis MP and Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said, “I’m delighted to see Waitrose further bolstering its support for British pork farmers with this significant and important investment. Never has there been a time when it’s needed more.

'I encourage and welcome action such as this which ensures fairness for farmers and supports high standards of animal welfare.”

Waitrose sources from over 250 British pig farms it knows and trusts, many of whom the group has worked with for more than 30 years.