Global bacon shortage 'unavoidable', pig farmers say

Pig farmers warn droughts in US and Russia make bacon crisis 'unavoidable'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2012, 4:32am


Record droughts in the US and Russia are threatening to curtail the world's bacon supply, farmers on both sides of the Atlantic are warning.

So dire is the situation that a world shortage of pork and bacon is "unavoidable" next year, according to Britain's National Pig Association. In the US, farmers predict pork prices will hit new highs next year as farmers cut back on production due to soaring feed costs.

The cost of bringing home the bacon in America has almost doubled since 2006, according to economist Steve Meyer at Paragon Economics, and an adviser to the National Pork Producers Council. Consumption is falling as less pork is produced and prices rise, down from 23.1kg per person per year in 2007 to a predicted 20.1kg next year.

"It's not that people don't want to eat pork, it's just that they increasingly can't afford to," said Meyer. "We've been warning about this for years. Now that we are talking about bacon, we've really got everyone's attention."

US pork producers have been hit as corn and soy prices have soared following this year's drought. Livestock farmers blame a US government mandate that 10 per cent of the nation's fuel supply must come from corn-based ethanol for propping up sky-high prices.

The average cost of producing 45kg of pork was US$52.76 between 1999 and 2006, Meyer said. Next year he expects it to top US100.

Dr Zoe Davies, general manager of the National Pig Association in Britain, said US corn prices and the ethanol subsidy were being felt worldwide.

"We are competing in a fierce global market for feed," she said.

Davies said 7,000 extra pigs per month were now being slaughtered in Britain by farmers looking to get out of the business.

"The market will sort this out, people will go out of business, there will be less pork products and prices will rise," she said.