Suffolk pig farmers facing huge financial and emotional strain

Church of England stand at the Suffolk Show 2022

The Church of England has provided fun activities on its stand at the Suffolk Show. Back L-R: Julie Daniels, Grace Kent, Bishop Martin Seeley, Sarah Duboulay, Lorna Todd. Front L-R: James Gibson and Ben Alty with their puppets. - Credit: Phil Morley

A leading churchman has highlighted the plight of pig farmers in Suffolk - saying they are under a huge financial and emotional strain.

The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, was speaking at the Suffolk Show as the county's agricultural community came together for the event, held for the first time in two years.

However, Bishop Martin acknowledged that it could be difficult for the county’s farmers to find joy after a two-year pandemic which continued to exert immense pressure on the pig industry, leaving farmers under a huge financial and emotional strain.

And he reminded the public that their lives were directly linked with farmers who produced their daily food. 

He said: ‘‘Farmers have been suffering huge challenges throughout the pandemic with rising food costs and decreasing value of the pigs they are producing.

‘‘There are 30-40,000 breeding sows in Suffolk and each year each sow will produce on average 25 piglets.

‘‘But because of the shortage of staff working in the abattoirs, pigs have not been able to go to the abattoir when they have reached the right weight. 

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‘‘There are currently about 60,000 pigs ready to go but the farmers have to continue to feed them, so they inevitably exceed the weight they are meant to be, so their value decreases even further.

‘‘And now the already increased cost of feed has shot up even further, and electricity costs have done too, as we all know, and so farmers are losing money, not making money, on pigs,’’ said Bishop Martin.

Graham Miles, Rural Agricultural Chaplain for Suffolk, who is available to support farming families 24/7, said: “During the last last two years farming communities have been really struggling with depression, loneliness, anxiety and even sometimes suicidal thoughts. 

“The Suffolk Show is a chance for me to meet some of those farming families I have been supporting.”

At the show, the Church of England marquee hosted fun activities for children and young people, including impromptu singing, arcade games, puppet shows and creative activities.