5 December 1997

Lighten pigs is best spot tip

PIG producers selling on to the spot market should offer stock at lighter weights in the run-up to Christmas.

Thats the advice of Bury St Edmunds pig consultant Peter Crichton, who says, in the face of the tumbling trade, farmers should take advantage of the p/kg price premium available for porkers.

Spot prices on Monday averaged 61.7p/kg liveweight, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission. A far cry from 12 months ago, when the figure was more than 95p/kg.

An increase in pig supplies has contributed to the weaker prices, says Mr Crichton. "The outbreak of classical swine fever in Europe earlier this year created a vacuum – but it merely relieved the agony that was going to hit us."

Demand has also taken a hit, with "head-to-head" competition from cheap poultry, beef and lamb. "The consumer is spoilt for choice."

But with a 10p/kg difference between the light and heavy pigs, it makes sense for spot sellers to market pigs at pork-weight, says Mr Crichton. "Heavy pigs will be an embarrassment over Christmas."

Meanwhile at Selby, N Yorks, auctioneer Chris Clubley has also seen this increase in supplies. He reckons theres about one-third more going through the market compared with a year ago.

"At the present prices, even those farmers that are breeding and feeding will still be losing money. And those that bought animals as stores will be losing more than ever.

"January has always been a difficult month and I dont see why it will be any different next year, either."n