14 May 1999
Breeding sows fall 14%, confirms MAFF

By FWi Staff

THE government confirmed today that the ongoing crisis in the pig industry has had a devastating effect on the national sow herd.

Breeding sow numbers have plummeted 14% since June last year, according to the Ministry of Agricultures latest pig survey published this morning.

Numbers fell a further 5% in the first three months of this year following a drop of 9% in the UK breeding herd between June and December 1998.

The number of fattening pigs fell by 6% during the same period.

The figures confirm that the pig sector is going through its worst crisis since the 1930s.

But the main part of the decline is now over, said Tony Fowler, senior economic analyst with the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Although numbers might fall further, the drop wont be quite so dramatic, he told Farmers Weekly.

Much of the decline in numbers is due to pig producers leaving the industry because slaughter values remain below the typical break-even point of 90p/kg deadweight, he added.

Exactly how many more farmers will quit remains to be seen.

“It will be next year before we have any indication of the structural impact the prices have had on the industry,” said Mr Fowler.

The situation appears worse in Scotland as pig numbers plummet nearly 20% in nine months.

The National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) called on the Government to help the pig sector north of the border.

The figures showed show a sharper drops in Scotlands pig herd than those in the rest of the UK, said Peter Chapman, NFUS vice-president.

At a meeting with the Scottish Office yesterday, Mr Chapman called for Government action to backup the measures the industry is taking to help itself.

The government should push Brussels to take surplus pigmeat off the market, he said.

“We fear for the future of Scottish pig production, and the knock-on effects for breeding companies and processors,” Mr Chapman added.