Desperate UK pig farmers have doubled the usual number of breeding sows they are sending to slaughter to 7,000 a week because they can no longer afford to feed them following a doubling of wheat prices since last summer.
The crisis is affecting both commercial farmers who supply supermarkets, and pedigree farmers, who tend to sell through farm shops.
Jimmy Doherty, owner of the Essex Pig Company and star of the Jimmy’s Farm TV series, has had to slaughter 50 of his 95 rare-breed sows as the cost of feeding them has risen so steeply. “I am busy killing my sows as I can’t afford to feed them. It is very, very difficult at the moment,” said Mr Doherty.
Pig-feed costs at his Pannington Hall Farm have risen from £130 a tonne in January to £225 today. “I’ve slashed my herd to bits. I will go down to a core of around 30 pedigree sows. It is a crisis. It is a very sad thing as people don’t see what is happening and don’t understand,” he said.
Depleting US stockpiles
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday forecast that U.S. wheat inventories will total 272 million bushels by the end of May – the lowest level in more than five decades. Wheat prices have surged 20% since the start of year, pushed higher by growing world demand and bad weather that has pummeled crops in Canada, Argentina and India. U.S. exporters are selling wheat at a record-pace to meet demand, rapidly depleting stockpiles.
Export restrictions spreading
Prices of top-quality wheat jumped 25 per cent to a record high on Monday in their largest one-day increase as Kazakhstan, one of the largest grain exporters, said it would impose export tariffs to curb sales.
The move, which follows similar export restrictions in Russia and Argentina, is likely to put further pressure on already tight global wheat supplies, analysts said.
Akhmetzhan Yesimov, Kazakhstan’s minister of agriculture, said the government wanted to limit exports as it battled against rising domestic inflation of nearly 20 per cent.
Mills and bakers are ”panicking”
The price of spring wheat, used to bake bread, has more than doubled since January and has risen fourfold in the last year, contributing to a rise in global food inflation.
Gavin Maguire, of Iowa Grain in Chicago, said consumers such as mills and bakers, who needed wheat, were “panicking”. He said: “Historical references are useless. We are breaking all the rules.”
Iraq and Turkey said they were planning substantial wheat purchases to replenish inventories and analysts said China could be forced to follow because of drought damage to its next crop.
Why are food prices rising?
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