TESCO HAS been accused of betraying UK pig farmers by buying in cheaper imports at a time when the sector is in crisis.

The retailer caused uproar on social media after tweeting that the 'UK harvest' had been delayed this year which had led to them buying in pork from overseas.

Outraged farmers took to Twitter to question Tesco's understanding of basic food production – with pork being produced year round by the sector – and also accused the retailer of turning their backs on UK producers when the pig sector is struggling.

The initial comment from pig farmer Vicky Scott read: "Interesting to hear from quite a few consumers now that a number of retail outlets seem short of British pork on their shelves? Any ideas why we can’t sell it?" To which a Tesco spokesperson responded: "We source from a variety of countries to ensure we have the best quality all year. The weather this year has meant that the UK harvest has been slightly delayed but we hope to be in British supply soon."

The SF spoke with Vicky Scott, who farms alongside her two sisters and parents in Driffield, East Yorkshire, where they run a 1700 sow unit.

"It was really shocking to read Tesco's response and although it might have been a PR blunder, it was still inexcusable at a time when the pig sector is in crisis," she said, giving an insight in to how her own farm has been impacted over the past six months.

"It has been a disaster for us and many others producers in the area. We currently have 3000 pigs backed up on farm costing a fortune in extra feed and we have had to find extra accommodation," she continued.

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"However, the massive financial burden facing the industry is nothing compared with the emotional turmoil it has caused. We don't know what to do as government measures have made no impact on a farm level – there doesn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel."

Turning to Tesco's decision to import non British pork, Ms Scott warned of the risk this could pose to the UK's pig herd with African Swine Fever sweeping across Europe: "If the disease reaches our shores it will be the end of our sector, but some retailers only seem to care about price and will favour cheaper pork from Europe despite the risk."

Andy McGowan of the Scottish Pig Producers shared his dismay at the situation: “It is disappointing to read this gibberish from Tesco in response to a reasonable question from a British pig farmer in the midst of the worst crisis the sector has faced for a generation. I suspect the real reason it is so hard to find British pork in their stores is because they are buying huge amounts of cheap German pork," he alleged. "Unfortunately, the reason that is so much cheaper is because African Swine Fever is actively spreading there so very few countries outside the EU still accept imports from Germany – except the UK, where the UK Government doesn’t even bother to ask EU importers for a vet certificate.”

The SF reached out to Tesco regarding their comment on Twitter and the retailer quickly removed the comment and issued the following comment: “We are proud champions of British agriculture, including the British pork industry. We continue to work with our suppliers to respond to industry challenges, as well as significantly higher demand for products including sausages and cooked meats as customers spend more time at home. The original Twitter response on this issue was posted in error and we’re really sorry for any confusion caused.”