27 September 1996

Imports knock UK pig prices

PIG prices have weakened, with Mondays average of 109p/kg lw, down nearly 2p on the week before.

Buyer resistance to the current levels (10p/kg higher than 12 months ago) and import competition are partly the reason.

Danish pork – particularly belly and loin – which otherwise might have gone to Japan is reaching the UK, says Bent Windahl, MLCs pigmeat export manager.

This follows the reintroduction from July of the Japanese "gate-price" – a tariff adding nearly a quarter to the price of imports.

Japan is also a market of growing importance to UK farmers, with the quantity destined to go there in the first half of 1996, 10 times that of the same time last year.

Such sentiments are reflected at ground level. Auctioneer Mark Caley at Hull, for example, saw prices on Monday fall about 2.5p/kg on the week.

But the strong trade has drawn out extra supplies, with the 600 entries marking a rise of over 35% on seven days earlier. Any surplus over contract requirements is being put on the spot market, suggests Mr Caley.

Also keeping a lid on trade is the "old enemy of the pig industry – the stronger £ sterling", says Peter Crichton who sells at Wickham, Suffolk.

But he expects prices to remain similar, with demand for lighter-weight pigs rising as Christmas approaches.

Values, meanwhile, could also be boosted by the lifting of the Japanese gate-price at the end of the year.n