Supermarket chain Waitrose has announced a support scheme worth up to £16 million for its British pig farmers.

It will cover the full cost of rearing and producing pigs, including labour, feed and fuel, offering Waitrose farmers financial security when others are being forced out of the sector.

The commitments will not however, detract from its promise to provide great value for Waitrose customers or the company's pledge to maintain leading welfare standards.

Announcing the support for farmers, Waitrose’s executive director, James Bailey said:

“Farmers are the backbone of Britain, keeping food on our tables during our country’s hour of need through a pandemic. But now, they need our help.

“This investment is a direct response to some of the most challenging conditions the pig sector has ever faced. This is not only the right thing to do, it will ensure we continue to pay our farmers a fair price while maintaining our quality and high welfare standards.

"My hope is that this will enable us to keep working with them for decades to come, but we can't do it alone. This issue is industry-wide and we need the entire food industry and the British public to get behind us.

"If we don’t stand united in supporting UK pork farmers and act soon, many businesses will be lost.”

The support has been welcomed by members of the industry, including the National Pig Association and Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Victoria Prentis MP.

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers' Union, hopes it will inspire others to act similarly.

"We need all supermarkets to take similar action and create support packages that will genuinely come to the aid of British pig farmers in their hour of need – the rapid rise in farm costs need to be met or we risk supply into next year," said Batters.

"I hope this move will inspire others to stand by the country’s farmers, we owe them our support.”

Waitrose is the second supermarket chain to commit support to the struggling sector.

Last month, Sainsbury’s announced an additional support payment of up to £2.8 million for its pork development group, the supermarket’s aligned farmer group designed to understand its farm base and increase visibility across the supplier chain.