UK PIG prices and European mainland prices are concluding the year at relatively firm levels, bucking the usual seasonal trend.

Although the latest GB Euro Deadweight Adjusted Pig Price (DAPP) quote of 99.9p/kg is 3.5% down on 12 months ago, European prices have ended the year with a flourish.

The European mainland producer price, averaged across the six main production countries, is up 20% over the year at 97p/kg.

Although prices in Denmark have been disrupted by the recent strike of slaughterhouse workers, other major EU processors have been reporting firm demand.

This is in spite of the drift in the value of the Euro, which in the week commencing Dec 20 traded at 68.6p, compared with 70.5p at the end of December 2003.

Greater stability within the EU pig market has been welcomed by producers, and the results of the mid-year EU pig census point to a slight drop in the size of the overall EU pig herd.

Sows and in pig gilts numbered 15.99 million head, representing a 12-month drop of 3.9%.

The UK herd is quoted at 628,000 head, comprising just under 4% of the EU total. The German herd is the largest, at 2.83 million head, with Spain in second place on 2.80 million.

Another positive indicator of rising EU pigmeat values are much higher cull sow prices. These are currently trading at about 80p/kg, representing a rise of 25/30p on the year.

Higher cull sow prices could encourage producers to restock unproductive herds, but it may also provide a further incentive to close down uneconomic units.

Spot pig prices in the UK for the week commencing Dec 20 saw bacon traded in the 99-103p/kg range and lighter cutters earning a premium of between 4-6p/kg.

Weaner prices continue to rally with the Meat and Livestock Commission 30kg average improving to £30.94 ex farm, and as numbers tighten, further rises in weaner prices are on the cards.