By Peter Crichton

THE worst year for the countrys pig producers has drawn to a close with prices still on the floor and little prospect of a return to profit in the three months ahead.

Although the stall-and-tether ban became law at the beginning of this year, there has been no immediate surge in demand from retailers and caterers as far as the UK product is concerned.

Abattoir sources say that the home market is still being undercut by cheap imports, which the catering and manufacturing industry continue to use.

Currently Danish legs are being supplied to the domestic market at less than 40p/Ib (88p/kg) and UK suppliers are struggling to compete.

With an estimated 3000 surplus contract pigs also in the system looking for homes, abattoir buyers are still in the driving seat and, until UK supplies tighten up, prices will remain under pressure, according to marketing groups.

Sow prices also remain depressed, with most traded between 38-40p/kg deadweight, equivalent to about 25p/kg liveweight.

Talk among exporters is that by the middle of next week many EU countries prices could slip back further due to high cullings. This would put yet more pressure on UK producers hoping to cut back on their herd sizes and repay borrowings.

The UK AESA has dropped by almost 0.5p to 68.6p/kg. Once levies and other deductions are taken into account, most UK contract producers will have to accept a net figure close to 64p/kg.

On a 70kg bacon pig this yields a banked return of no more than £45, compared with a production cost of close to £66/head, a loss of £21 for each pig leaving the farm.

Weaner prices have also checked in spite of a slight shortage, with most 30kg lots traded between £16-£19 according to quality. The latest Signet figures show a production cost close to £33/head.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry