Farm Ireland

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Threat of bacon shortages as farmers demand price hikes

Photo: PA
Photo: PA

Rachel Hosie

First it was Prosecco, then Nutella, then our beloved avocados - yes, it seems like there’s just one shortage of our favourite delicacies after another.

And the latest food to be under threat? Bacon.

Yes, pig farmers are struggling to keep up with our appetite for bacon butties.

Fortunately for Irish partial to a sizzling rasher or two, the shortage is currently only affecting supplies across the pond in the US, where bacon reserves are at their lowest for half a century. 

The US Department of Agriculture revealed there has been a 67 per cent year-on-year drop in pork belly inventory levels.

On Tuesday, the Ohio Pork Council revealed that demand for frozen pork belly (which is often made into bacon) is exceeding supply.

“Today’s pig farmers are setting historic records by producing more pigs than ever,” said Ohio Pork Council President Rich Deaton. “Yet our reserves are still depleting.”

In what has been dubbed the “aporkalypse”, it didn’t take long for #baconshortage to start trending on Twitter as panic spread.

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The nation’s love for bacon has pushed up pork belly prices which saw an increase of 20 per cent in January according to the Council.

And it might not just be Americans driving up prices - demand from overseas may be contributing to the shortage, officials have suggested.

However Deaton is adamant that Americans will not have to go without their BLTs, even if they become more expensive: “Rest assured. The pork industry will not run out of supply. Ohio farmers will continue to work hard to ensure consumers receive the products they crave.”

Meanwhile, here at home Irish pig farmers are expecting the pig price to increase substantially over the coming days.

Price rises

Chairman of IFA Pigs Committee, Tom Hogan called on processors to reflect improvements in trade with increased producer prices this week.

He said, “A number of factors provide justification for a price increase, including a strong export trade, tightening supplies and a steady demand for Irish product on the domestic market.

"While quotes have remained relatively static at the €1.60/kg level for the past number of weeks, it is clear that prices well in excess of this level are being secured for both spot loads and long term consignments of pigs from large scale producers.”

Irish pigmeat exports saw growth in both 2015 and 2016.

The greatest increase has been in exports to China, and prospects remain positive that China will remain a major player in the importation of Irish pig meat in 2017.

Domestic Chinese pig supply is likely to remain tight for 2017 and Ireland should continue to benefit from this going forward.

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