LATEST INCOME figures from DEFRA paint a bleak picture for most types of farming over the last year, but news on pig farming is mixed.

Pig farming incomes have declined by 18% for the March 2004 to Feb 2005 period compared to a year earlier, but are still better than they were in 2002.

And net farm income from all enterprises shows a serious 31% drop.

According to Meat and Livestock Commission statistics, the average Deadweight Adjusted Pig Price (formerly the Average All Pigs Price) for 2004 was 102.7p/kg.

This compares with 103p/kg in 2003 and a much lower 93.4p/kg in 2002.

Feed costs in 2004 contributed 58% of the total cost of production, other variable costs 13.4% and fixed costs 28.6%.

The Europe-wide drought in 2003 caused feed wheat costs to rise sharply from £70/t in August that year to £110/t by the following January.

Feed wheat prices have now fallen back to £61/t and will provide producers with significant cost savings this year.

Signs are also emerging of higher European pigmeat prices which should provide UK producers with less competition from imports in 2005 and better bottom line returns.

The June 2004 European Pig Census results also paint a slightly more favourable picture for UK prices.

Sow and in-pig gilt numbers are down by 3.9% in the nine major EU pig production countries, leading to reduced supplies hitting the market.

At the same time, maiden gilt placings in the UK are up by 5.8%, indicating confidence is slowly returning to some sectors of the industry.