By Peter Crichton

Exports of pigmeat will now be allowed from counties which have been foot-and-mouth free for more than three months.

Initially exports were limited to counties which had had no outbreaks, but proposals to extend these areas were approved by the Standing Veterinary Committee on October 24.

Exports were due to start on October 22, but delays in preparing the necessary paperwork mean that very little exporting has been done.

Sow exporters like Cheale Meats and Dawkins are hoping to start from October 29, which should lead to a competitive market opening up.

Although quotes of 60p/kg deadweight for export quality sows have been widely reported, physical limitations facing exporters mean the whole cull sow market remains in limbo.

Finished pigs will also be eligible for export, although this trade will be largely confined to cuts rather than whole carcasses.

However, DEFRAs plans to cut Welfare Disposal Scheme payments are a bitter pill for producers whose units are still subject to foot-and-mouth restrictions.

From October 29 the 30/head paid for sows and boars will be halved and other pigs will be reduced from 12/head plus 55p/kg to a flat 58p/kg liveweight payment.

Meanwhile, finished pig prices remain firm with most spot baconers close to 100p/kg deadweight at Euro Spec plants. Producers are reluctant to trade significantly below this level.

Lighter weights are a 4-6p/kg premium in the run up to Christmas and meat sales are reported to be holding up well.

Weaner prices are also improving and recent deals have seen most 30kg tail docked, vaccinated weaners traded at 30/head and over.