Pig farmers at the Royal Adelaide Show say the industry is struggling. (ABC News: Claire Campbell)
Finding Australian bacon on supermarket shelves is getting harder amid drought, decreasing numbers of pig studs and an influx of cheaper imports, according to local producers.
- Recent drought means pig prices should be going up, farmers at the Royal Adelaide Show say
- However, an influx of cheaper imports is undermining prices of locally produced meat
- One farmer says the popular pig racing gives a misleading impression of the industry
For decades, farmers have used city and regional shows to promote the industry to the wider public, but those opportunities are also dwindling.
Greg Davis — who runs his family’s pig stud in Murray Bridge, south-east of Adelaide — said the industry was struggling and needed more public support.
Pig prices plummeted to about $2.20 per kilogram in recent years, while drought pushed up the cost of grain by more than $100 a tonne, its highest level in years.
During that time, the weekly pig market in Dublin, north of Adelaide, also closed because of falling sales.
“This time last year we were in trouble,” Mr Davis told ABC News.
“There’s several farms that have shut up shop and got out of the industry because it was so tough — the industry’s always had peaks and troughs but this one was a particularly deep trough.
“Normally in a drought year our prices should go up in relation to the grain prices, but it just didn’t happen because there was just too many imports coming in.”
Murray Bridge pig farmer Greg Davis says cheaper imports are hurting prices. (ABC News: Claire Campbell)
Unlike Greg Davis, who is a third-generation pig breeder, Barossa Valley pig farmer Michael Blenkiron bought into the industry 11 years ago.
Formerly a council worker, Mr Blenkiron said he loved working with the animals but had lost a lot of money over the past two years.
“Rural commodities go up and down, it all happens — you’ve got to absorb it but there’s no joke behind it, it’s been tough,” he said.
“We were probably losing between 50 and 60 cents a kilo on everything going out the gate.”
Pig racing ‘doesn’t do the industry justice’
Both farmers are part of a handful of pig breeders from across the nation who have travelled to Adelaide this week for the Royal Adelaide Show, putting their pigs — particularly the feature Berkshire breed — on public display.
Despite the challenges, Mr Davis said he believed showcasing the animal was crucial to promoting the industry.
However, Adelaide and the Sydney Royal Easter Show are the last remaining events to exhibit and judge pigs.
Mr Davis’s father first started bringing pigs to the Royal Adelaide Show in 1961.
Adelaide and Sydney are the two remaining big shows to promote pigs. (ABC News: Claire Campbell)
But over the past 50 years, pig entry numbers have dropped dramatically.
“I think we’ve missed two shows in that time so it’s been a long family tradition to do this,” he said.
“The number of exhibitors showing pigs is drastically reduced which is a reflection on the stud industry which has reduced massively.
“The number of pigs in each class has dropped off as well. We used to have really big class, up to 80 or 90 pigs in each class, whereas now a dozen pigs would see it out. It has been a big change.”
Despite the decreasing number of exhibitors, Mr Blenkiron said the Royal Adelaide Show was worth the effort to be able to interact with the public.
Without it, pig racing would be the only picture of the industry many show-goers would see.
“Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the pig racing. I don’t think it does the industry justice,” Mr Blenkiron said.
“The big thing with the Royal Adelaide Show is to have the animals here, show the public that the animals are out there, the quality of animals that are out there and promote the industry as hard as we can.
“Being here we don’t make a lot of money out of it; it’s just that presence.
“The industry needs support, the best way to get support is from the Australian people.”
Pig racing is popular with some, but at least one farmer is not a fan. (ABC News: Claire Campbell)
But with pig prices bouncing back from the trough, there is a renewed sense of optimism in the industry.
“I reckon the next two or three years will be good that’s my prediction, hopefully we can keep the supply and demand ratio about right,” Mr Davis said.
“It’s hard sometimes to find Australian bacon, it’s really hard, and we realise that, and producers are trying everything they can to get more Australian products on the shelves.
“You need to approach the retailers and say we want Australian bacon on the shelves, we can supply it, but we need the retail end to do their part.”