Pig producers Vicky, Kate and Rachel Morgan are pressing on with plans to diversify their business, despite the severe financial pressures facing the sector.
Independent pig producers such as the Morgans have borne the brunt of the post-Brexit and Covid-19 market disruption.
Yo-yoing prices, caused by export market collapses and Covid-19 labour shortages, have been set against soaring input costs, which have turned any hope of profit into a £30-a-pig loss.
The Morgan sisters are hoping that a government supply chain review ordered by Defra minister Victoria Prentis will ultimately lead to a fairer deal for farmers.
They have also been heavily involved with the “Bite Into British” campaign aimed at promoting home-grown food and increasing its market share.
While fighting for the pig sector, the Morgans have looked to bolster their business’ finances by diversifying into holiday lets.
Six wooden lodges will be sited on a smallholding owned by the Morgan family, about a mile from the 1,700-sow breeding unit in East Yorkshire.
The units were bought from a local manufacturing company, which has carried out alterations to meet requirements.
There are four three-bedroom units and two with two bedrooms, which will be located in a secluded, 1ha field at the smallholding.
Construction is in the final stages, with concrete pads in place and sewerage, water and electricity supplies connected. All of the lodges are on-site and is expected to be completed by the end of the summer 2022, ready for occupancy in September, explains Vicky.
The whole process began two years ago after getting the go-ahead from local planners. At that time, the Morgans applied for EU grant funding to help offset the total project cost of about £500,000.
Calculations suggest a four- to five-year return on the investment.
The grant is a significant element at £80,000, but the application process has been one of the trickiest parts of the project, says Vicky.
Difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic saw the application process shelved for more than a year by grant administrators.
Only in the past six months has the whole project regained momentum and, since the start of the year, has moved on quickly.
The sisters have carried out local market research to establish likely demand levels and used advisers from holiday let expert Hoseasons to address potential issues.
Local farmers and B&B owners have also been extremely supportive, allowing the sisters to visit similar units and discuss issues.
“Everyone has been extremely positive, and suggested the site’s closeness to the Yorkshire Wolds is attractive, and it could do well,” says Vicky.
“It’s still a massive gamble. But if you don’t try things, you never know, and may even be at greater risk relying solely on the pig unit.”