PIGMEAT IMPORTS are still rising at the expense of home-fed pork production, according to the latest figures from DEFRA.
They accounted for 76.5% of all UK pigmeat production at the end of 2003, rising to over 80% by the second quarter of this year.
At the same time, UK pork production fell by 5%, triggering a further 8% fall in domestic prices to the current level of 99.93p/kg (GB Euro Deadweight Adjusted Pig Price).
The Euro mainland average pig price is 95p/kg, but meat traders report that high import volumes continue to hold down UK prices despite the narrow differential between EU and UK prices.
The Meat and Livestock Commission says an increase in weekly GB average slaughter numbers has also put downward pressure on prices.
The weekly pig kill for Oct 2004 was 159,600 animals, up from 155,500 a year earlier.
Though cull sow slaughterings have remained constant over the past year at around 4400 head per week, higher cull values are encouraging some producers to destock unprofitable herds.
This trend may lead to further falls in slaughter pig availability in the spring/summer of 2005.
But unless imported pigmeat values rise or volumes drop, further reductions in UK slaughter pig availability may have little impact on domestic prices.
Uncertainty over the viability of finished pig production continues to be reflected in the weaner market.
With cheaper feed available, a number of weaner producers are reported to be looking at either finishing weaners themselves, or selling them at heavier weights.