THE soaring price of bacon has led to an increase in thefts and a rise in ‘black market’ trading across East Lancashire.

And one shop in Burnley has already removed its bacon supply from the self-service fridge with customers having to ask at the till if they want to buy a pack.

Other shopkeepers said they have experienced similar problems with shoplifters targeting the meat on their shelves.

Butchers said that the price of bacon was increasing with financial experts blaming rising demand from China for pushing up prices.

And police said thieves target the meat, often to order, because it is ‘easy to sell’ due to high demand.

In the Londis store, at Kitchens Garage, Trafalgar Street, Burnley, a sign has been put up on its fridge saying: “Due to the fact that our bacon is so delicious the shoplifters can’t resist it.

"If you would like to try some please ask at the tills.”

The store manager, who asked not to be named, said she took the decision to put the sign up in a bid to foil thieves.

She added: “I put the sign up after shoplifters emptied the shelf for two days running and I was sick of them taking it.

“It’s a regular thing - we catch a few and they stop but then it starts again.

"They steal it because they can sell it. Someone stole a load of cheese from the shelf yesterday.”

Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show that the price of bacon has almost doubled in the past year and food price inflation has jumped to 10 per cent in August.

Demand from China, which eats more pork products than anywhere else in the world, has also driven up the price, especially since a UK ban on exporting the meat was lifted last month.

Local award-winning butcher Stephen Berkins, who has a shop on Rosegrove Lane, Burnley, confirmed that the average price for a pack of bacon is between £2.50 and £3.50 depending on the quality.

He said: “The price of bacon has gone up recently. The average cost for a pound of bacon is around £3 or £3.50 for the dry-cured.”

Police confirmed that there has been a recent increase in bacon thefts and said it is an ‘ongoing’ issue.

Sgt Phil Carter, of Burnley Police, said: “Heroin addicts steal it, along with items like coffee, because it is an easy commodity to sell and easy to conceal in a jacket.

"They often steal it to order and then sell it for half the price of what it is sold for in the shops.

“If a wrap of heroin costs around £10, they only need to sell a few packs of bacon to pay for it and they can steal that in one fell swoop.

“They target stores like Londis because they have 24-hour opening times and are self service.”

A shop assistant at the One Stop store, in King Street, Bacup said they have had to ‘limit’ the number of packs of bacon on display after thieves repeatedly stole the product from the fridge.