Bacon imports to the UK have fallen to their lowest level for 12 months, prompting suggestions that consumers are switching to British product.

Imports fell for the second consecutive month to 17,700 tonnes in July, driven by a crash in Dutch shipments, which have halved since last December. But retail sales of bacon are also down, according to MLC senior economic analyst Tony Fowler.

"Bacon consumption in the UK has fallen and this decrease has been reflected in a reduction in imports, rather than home production. In fact, the production of British bacon is holding up well," he said.

Fowler added that more consumers are buying British: "There's strong demand for British bacon, despite the general fall in consumption. Supermar-kets are making an effort to source British supplies."

Total retail bacon sales figures for January to August 2006 fell by 6% year-on-year. "And the volume fall for British bacon was only 2%, compared to 7% for imported," he said. "This is increasing British bacon's market share." It rose from 27% to 28.1% for the same period, a trend Fowler expects to continue.

Already, for the four-week period ended 10 September, British bacon has significantly raised its share of sales to 30%.

"The shift is all about a change in attitudes - consumers want to buy British," said Fowler. "This is good news for the UK industry and provides pig producers with the encouragement to invest in their businesses."

Robert Smith of Dutch producer Vion Foods said production had fallen overall in Holland and blamed poor promotional strategy.

"Many retailers have become reliant on BOGOF promotions as a way to increase sales, but this rewards those who already buy bacon - it doesn't encourage new buyers into the category."