Chinese consumers are driving demand
Back in June, when the citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, I hypothesized that the so-called Brexit would affect English breakfast. And though I hate to say I told you so, I totally told you so. The price of bacon has increased after Brexit, by as much as 38 percent since the beginning of August, according to British pork suppliers. One of the causes of this price increase is simple: a weak currency. The value of the British sterling has slumped to 31-year lows, according to Sky News, which has been having an impact on domestic food prices across the board.
But not everyone is complaining about Britain’s devalued currency, especially not China, which has been using the weakened exchange rate to its advantage and buying up all of Britain’s bacon. The increase in demand for British bacon, and the subsequently higher prices, have been driven by the Chinese. There has been severe flooding in the Yangtze River basin, where most of the country’s pork industry is located; one of the most heartbreaking and memorable images from these floods had been that of a farmer who, according to the Guardian, was “breaking down in tears as waters mounted around his 6,000 pigs.”
The flooding has meant that domestic Chinese bacon has been scarce, and so Chinese consumers are relying on imported bacon. The weakened currency means that, on the international market, bacon is a steal, and exports of British bacon have been increasing accordingly: “a 40,000-ton increase in pig meat exports, up 31 percent on the first half of last year,” according to the Guardian.
Long story short? As Emma Warrington, a senior food buyer at food purchasing company Beacon, told the Guardian, "The combination of such huge demand for British pork from China and the devaluing of sterling following Brexit is impacting our breakfast table.” And it’ll probably be a long time before British bacon is cheap again.