Bedale businessman issues pork sausage shortage warning as Chinese export trade rockets

Andrew Keeble, co-founder of Heck, said he had never known the price of pork shoulder to be so high. Picture by James Hardisty.
Andrew Keeble, co-founder of Heck, said he had never known the price of pork shoulder to be so high. Picture by James Hardisty.

A leading Yorkshire sausage producer has warned of a shortage of British bangers and price hikes for shoppers because of exporters cashing in on a collapse of pig stocks in China.

According to Andrew Keeble, co-founder of Bedale-based sausage and burger brand Heck!, British pork processors are having to pay hugely inflated prices for supplies of the meat, which he said was likely to lead to price hikes on supermarket shelves.

Andrew Keeble said Heck was increasing its production of chicken and vegan sausages to protect the business from the volatile pork price. Picture by Gerard Binks.

Andrew Keeble said Heck was increasing its production of chicken and vegan sausages to protect the business from the volatile pork price. Picture by Gerard Binks.

The entrepreneur said his firm was taking control its production costs by increasing production of its chicken sausages, which, along with its vegan sausages, are expected to outsell pork.

Mr Keeble, whose business will be profiled tonight on ITV4 programme Made in Britain, only uses pork shoulder - a premium cut - and he said he had never known its price to be as high as it is at the moment.

“Our pork price has jumped from £1.85 a kilo for pork to £2.70 in the past month and it’s a huge industry-wide issue,” Mr Keeble said.

“The Chinese are literally sucking up our UK pork supply and we can see a shortage of British bangers on the plate.”

He said the key to surviving the crisis was to diversify and that Heck! had identified export opportunities in the US, Australia and the EU for its vegan range as it looks to ride out a growing pork crisis.

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“We are increasing our production of chicken sausages and launching new varieties, such as a Chicken Frankfurter, to make sure there people can still enjoy a tasty sausage, but the reality is that this is a problem that will be here for at least a year,” Mr Keeble said.

China’s pig herd has been decimated by African Swine Fever (ASF) and so there has been a huge increase in the volume of British pork being shipped into the country.

Almost half of China’s national herd has been wiped out since August last year, which is the equivalent of the UK’s entire production.

In the UK, the pig industry is increasingly concerned about the disease arriving in Britain. The National Pig Association has warned of a “devastating” impact on the UK pig sector, and families and businesses that rely on the trade, in the event of an outbreak.

The NPA’s Yorkshire-based chairman Richard Lister recently wrote to Farming Minister George Eustice to highlight his concerns. Responding earlier this month, Mr Eustice said the UK risk level was set at “medium”, meaning an outbreak of ASF is expected within a year.

Among the NPA’s concerns are that the UK Border Force is not taking the threat seriously enough, accusing it of inconsistent support of a ASF awareness campaign at airports and ports.

Travellers are urged not to bring potentially infected animal products into the UK as part of an initiative backed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Zoe Davies, the NPA’s chief executive, said: “We are not seeing the posters being displayed with any consistency or prominence at ports and airports and there has been little interest shown in helping Defra to promote these crucial messages.

“If a Government Minister really thinks the virus will be here within a year, it is patently obvious that more resource and effort is needed to keep it out.”

Made in Britain is on ITV4 at 8pm tonight.

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