A SHOCK DECLINE in the number of breeding pigs in England gives producers a golden opportunity to restock, says consultant Peter Crichton.

DEFRA”s December census found that breeding pig numbers had fallen 6% over the year to 457,000, lower than industry estimates, said Mr Crichton. There was an even sharper fall of 17.2% in the number of pig gilts on farms, reversing indications of modest growth from the June survey. Only maiden gilts on farms were up, by 14.9%.

“The long decline in UK pig numbers will help prices, although they continue to be dominated by EU values,” said Mr Crichton.

“I would expect to see high spot market quotes until June, and although the DAPP is at a similar level to last year, there is more scope for improvement now because of much higher EU values.”

 With a much weaker euro last March, average mainland deadweight values were 80-85p/kg. They are now trading about 15p/kg higher.

 “There has been a good retail uptake of UK product recently, and it is perhaps a sign that British pork is starting to become more of a niche market than a commodity, which is good news.

 “Producers should use this as a golden opportunity to restock and secure a long-term contract with a producer. They can also lock into feed prices until harvest 2006.”