The retail price of pork products has risen by more than 10% in the past five months but the price paid to farmers remains unchanged.
New figures from the Meat and Livestock Commission have revealed that the average retail price for a basket of pork items rose from £4.81/kg at the beginning of August to £5.32 in December.
However, in an echo of the situation in dairy that led to a five-year-long OFT investigation and record fines for a number of retailers and suppliers, the daily average pig price that farmers receive has been static at £1.10/kg in the same period. Despite slight price fluctuations up or down by two pence, by the end of the year farmers were no better off.
Retailers have said the rising price of wheat and feed prompted them to raise prices in an attempt to aid struggling farmers. "The cost pressure of the increasing feed price was putting pressure on farmers, which was why the prices went up. That extra money was then returned to farmers," said an Asda spokesman.
However, the MLC figures and farmers themselves suggest that has not happened across the board.
"The supermarkets are continuing to ignore the fact that the retail and producer prices are out of kilter," he said. "The industry is in danger. Last time we shouted about price like this was eight years ago when the industry ended up losing 40% of producers," said John Rowbottom, chairman of the British Pig Industry Support Group.
On the positive side, Rowbottom said that a pledge by Morrisons to stock 100% British fresh pork was welcome, and that discussions were under way with Tesco about a similar commitment.
Chris Lamb, consumer marketing manager at the British Pig Executive, said there were positives and negatives to be taken from the latest figures. While there was still a big gap to bridge, he stressed there have been small price increases to farmers in the past two months.
But farmer prices needed to reach £1.30/kg by Easter to combat the rising feed prices, he added.