UK finished pig output for the first four months of this year has been in decline, according to latest DEFRA figures.

The April slaughter average of 174,000 pigs a week compares with 179,000 earlier in the year.

Carcass weights have also fallen from 76.6kg to 74.3kg over the same period.

Based on the June 2006 Breeding Herd Census of 468,000 sows, this represents an output equivalent to 19.3 pigs sold/sow/year and is the lowest of the ten leading EU pig production countries.

Danish producers are achieving 24.29/pigs sold/sow/year followed by the Netherlands at 23.36, France at 22.45 and Ireland at 21.9.

UK average carcass weights are also the lowest when compared with their EU counterparts with Austria, Belgium and Germany all above 90kg. 

Exports remain static

With the exception of Ireland all other EU producer countries are hitting average carcass weights above 80kg.

Based on the December 2006 UK Census of 449,000 breeding sows, unless productivity rates increase, UK finished pig output by the end of this year is likely to slip to an average of no more than 167,000 pigs/week.

This compares with weekly slaughter figures in the late 1990s of over 300,000 head.

Imports of pigmeat into the UK are also continuing to rise while exports remain static.

UK production costs estimated by the MLC are over 104p/kg deadweight and with the exception of Parma Ham production in Italy, are the highest of all their EU competitors.

This cost of production figure does not allow for recent increases in cereal prices which industry analysts are suggesting may cost an extra 7-10p/kg deadweight.

The trend of falling UK output and rising levels of cheaper imports may lead to a further fall in the size of the National Herd when the June 2007 Census figures are announced.