13 August 1999

Danes expand pig herds against trend

By Philip Clarke

DANISH pig breeders are bucking the trend of the rest of Europe, expanding their herds while prices remain depressed.

But fears that this will lead to renewed market pressure later in the year are being played down on both sides of the North Sea.

Tony Fowler of the Meat and Livestock Commission says that, when it published its recent Pig Outlook report, forecasting a December value of about 110p/kg dw, the MLC had already factored in some Danish expansion.

The latest figures show this is actually growing faster than earlier indicated, at 3.5% year-on-year. But Denmark is just one player in an EU of 15, says Mr Fowler, and overall European production is still predicted to stabilise in the third quarter of this year.

Bent Lassen, chairman of Danish slaughterers organisation, Danske Slagterier, agrees. Economists at DS predicted at the start of the year prices would rise steadily from Kr6/kg (53p/kg) in the first quarter to Kr9/kg (80p/kg) in the last quarter. "We are still confident that Kr9/kg will be reached by the end of the year."

"The last time we had a price crash, five years ago, lots of small farmers gave up as the banks would not support them. This time our producers are more efficient."

There has been particular expansion in the east of the country, adds Bjarnt Frederickson, export director of Steff-Houlberg, the countrys second biggest abattoir. "Arable farmers think it is better to put their barley through a pig, rather than just selling it."

Both Danes believe world market prospects are also improving. But Jens Christiansen, sales director of leading abattoir, Danish Crown, says the full impact of the Belgian dioxin crisis on consumer confidence is yet to be understood. There is also plenty of stock still in private storage aid to come onto the market in the coming months.