The British pig industry has again posted the highest production costs anywhere in the EU except for Italy, according to a British Pig Executive report.

For the third year since 2000, British producers in 2004 recorded some of the most expensive feed, labour and depreciation costs in the bloc.

The British average was 111.4p/kg, well above the EU average reference price and the lowest production cost of 94.9p/kg in Spain.

Higher feed prices pushed up costs across Europe, but Britain saw its feed costs soar by 12%, only partially offset by a 2% rise in carcass weights.

But feed prices have fallen this year, which should be reflected in 2005 costs.

British sows weaned fewer pigs than in many other countries, despite a modest increase this year.

And Post-Weaning Mortality Syndrome had again struck the British herd hard, dragging the number of pigs finished per sow down to 18.1. France, Denmark and the Netherlands achieved 22 or more.

Mark Wilson at BPEX said France had shown it was possible to turn these problems around.

“Over the last four years, France has moved from sixth place in the cost-of-production league table to being the country with the lowest cost.”

Improved management practice together with patience would raise herd performance, Mr Wilson claimed.

But the biggest cause of disparity in production costs was differing building, finance and miscellaneous charges, including asset depreciation.

Britain again topped the list, at 35.2p/kg, while Spain and Ireland saw only 21p/kg costs.

Deductions from gross prices were also higher in Britain than anywhere else, at the equivalent of 4.10 a pig.