By Peter Crichton

AFTER a year of negative margins, there are forecasts that the size of the UK sow herd will continue to shrink.

This latest prediction comes from the British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG), who were formed in 1998 as a grassroots pressure group to fight for the UK pig industry as a whole.

Treasurer Meryl Ward of the BPISG calculates that sow numbers could fall to about 500,000 head, a drop of 60%.

At the same time, the BPISG is continuing to press for compulsory labelling of all pigmeat to show the country of origin.

The BPISG feels the same labelling standards that apply to GM foods should also be required for all pigmeat.

UK producers believe that if consumers are allowed to differentiate between UK-standard high-welfare pigmeat and imports, sales of the domestic product will improve, despite of a higher price ticket.

Because of the continuing strength of the Pound and a 5.5% increase in the size of the EU herd in the December census, industry analysts have underlined that UK prices will continue to be tied to EU levels despite dwindling supplies on the home market.

Currently UK pig prices are the highest in Europe by 15-25p/kg and remain uncompetitive.

Unless UK producers succeed in their campaign to ring fence their product by better promotion to the consumer, the home market will continue to be undercut by most of Europe.

Many of the more militant members of the BPISG have flagged up warnings of further action against retailers and caterers who they feel are using imports to keep their costs down.

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