In a move designed to help take the pressure off British pig farmers following rising feed prices, supermarket retailer Tesco has announced plans to set up a new group, run by committees of farmers, which will guarantee a price linked to the cost of feed.

According to Tesco, the farmers will be given direct contracts that will last for up to 36 months, giving farmers more security, the ability to plan ahead and a guaranteed fair price for their meat. A similar scheme is being set up for beef farmers.

“As British agriculture’s biggest customer, we’re delighted to be announcing this new way of working with British pig and beef farmers," said Derek Lawlor, Tesco's meat, fish and poultry director. “Pig farmers have been under pressure with significant rises in feed prices, so it means a great deal to work in partnership with them and British beef farmers to help secure the industry’s future in this country. Not only will our customers enjoy even more high-quality, high-welfare British meat in our stores, the Tesco Sustainable Farming Groups, like our pioneering dairy group before them, will guarantee farmers a fair price for their meat and allow them to invest and plan for the future.”

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The move has been welcomed by the National Pig Association. “The NPA applauds Tesco for developing its sustainable pig group and working directly with pig farmers," said association chairman Richard Longthorp. “Creating this direct relationship with its pig farmers will bring an unprecedented level of transparency to the pricing of pigs and pork from farm to fork.”

The new scheme means that the supermarket will work directly with around 140 British pig farmers who will supply the retailer with the majority of its own brand fresh pork. With feed prices liable to fluctuations outside the control of farmers, the scheme will see prices for meat reviewed on a monthly basis with feed taken into account. The retailer will also work with around 1,000 beef farmers who will supply Tesco with all its “Finest” brand beef. This will be reared exclusively from Aberdeen Angus cattle.

The new way of working is likely to affect up to 10 percent of pork and beef farms in the UK, with livestock in both groups reared to meet the retailer’s high welfare standards.