Despite reports of better conception rates and lower mortality, the latest UK slaughter figures have underlined the lack of growth in the industry.
The average UK clean pig kill for the third quarter of 2005 averaged 171,000 head/week.
This compares with a twelve month average ending in September 2004 of 173,400 per week.
The June 2005 UK Pig Census indicated a 10% drop in breeding sow numbers over the previous twelve months.
At that time, the Meat and Livestock Commission reported the total number of rearing and finishing pigs had risen by 1% indicating improvements in herd health and productivity, but these benefits have yet to feed through to slaughter numbers.
Finished pig slaughter availability tends to peak in the autumn, but unless numbers pick up during November, slaughter throughput will be unable to match last years levels.
|Year to Sept||Pig kill (head/week)|
Carcass weights have also levelled out with the September 2005 average of 76.32kg compared with 76kg in 2004 and 76.2kg in 2003.
Any further falls in slaughter pig numbers will hit the abattoir sector, most of which is already operating at well below capacity levels.
Numbers of specialist pig abattoirs have halved since the mid-1990s, and over 60% of UK pig output is slaughtered in ten meat plants.
But imports of fresh and chilled pork in the seven months to July 2005 were up 13% compared with a year ago.
Imports from Denmark nearly doubled over this period at a time when household purchases of fresh, frozen pork and
bacon were also higher.
Signs of better EU prices and cuts in UK slaughter pig availability may help to stimulate the market in the run up to Christmas.
Failing that, hopes of any significant price rise may now be deferred until spring 2006.