By Simon Wragg

CULL sow prices jumped by almost £10 a head this week prompting some to suggest the deadlock on finished prices was about to be broken as supplies tighten.

The increase is worth almost 7p/kg and builds on small rises in recent weeks.

The trade believes it will add more pressure to get finished values moving, especially coming on the back of the Belgium dioxins food scare which saw export restrictions.

Auctioneer Ralph Ward saw trade at Hull – one of the biggest liveweight centres for cull sows with an entry of 270 last week – top 47.6p/kg. Thats up 10p/kg on the week with more export buyers at the ringside.

Although the vast majority of cull sows are exported for processing, their value provides the most accurate barometer on European trade, says Suffolk-based pig finisher Peter Crichton.

“Were starting to see that numbers (on the Continent) are beginning to tighten and thats got to be good news when many producers have little confidence left in the job,” he adds.

That confidence has been hit hard after projections made earlier this year over-stated the recovery in finished prices.

But Mr Crichton is trying to remain optimistic: “My cup is half full rather than half empty.”

And with cull sows now bringing in more realistic returns, many could benefit from extra income to fund some badly-needed reinvestment.

“Higher returns are a vast improvement on the 32-34p/kg many were seeing earlier on this year,” adds Mr Crichton.

Although this is good news for many, Mr Ward suggests that prices are unlikely to shift further and he now expects to see trade start to level off.

“Its a question of whether it is the drying up of supplies or competition among buyers to jostle for position that moves the price.”

During this time the finished market has being holding its own. Despite minor fluctuations, the Adjusted Eurospec Average has held reasonably steady, although daily MLC averages for markets have wavered.

Mr Crichtons weekly entry of finished pigs – sold for local butchers trade – mirrored the cull price recovery and sold deadweight at 96.8p/kg. “And they wanted more numbers through.”

Other markets have seen similar movements. Entries at Market Drayton, Shropshire saw porkers and cutters trading to 69p liveweight, reports auctioneer Mike Taylor.

And further north producers report weekly entries have received unexpected demand as processors look to source extra supplies.