FORECASTS FOR the second half of 2004 provide a slightly better outlook for GB pig producers.

Domestic pig meat prices will benefit from much firmer European mainland values and a 3.7% fall in the size of the EU-25 breeding herd.

Forward futures prices for feed wheat are currently at £66-£70/t from harvest until the end of the year.

And producers are also able to buy soya on a forward basis at £156-£164/t. 

However, production will remain closely linked to herd health, with many indoor and outdoor breeding herds still struggling to meet the 2003 average of 21.2 pigs reared per sow/year.

The PDNS and PMWS viruses are still causing major problems on rearing and finishing units throughout the UK, with the Meat and Livestock Commission quoting average finishing herd mortality between weaning and slaughter at 9.6%. 

Unless UK producers can find further ways to reduce high mortality profitability will still be compromised despite relatively stable feed prices and better EU-wide demand for pig meat during the second half of the year.