15 November 1996

Mirror image of 1995 pig prices

PIG prices are the mirror image of a year ago.

Continuous falls have eroded the year-on-year differential, taking values back to near where they were 12 months ago.

On Monday the all-weights spot price was 90p/kg lw. And the Euro-spec average in the week to Nov 1 was 128.5p/kg dw.

Imports have been encouraged by the strengthening £. Limited demand in Italy, France and Germany, for example, has prompted Denmark to send more pork legs to the UK, reckons the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Slaughterings have also risen slightly. Productivity was less affected by hot weather this summer and September showed a 2% increase compared with 1995.

Buyer resistance has also been a factor, with Euro-spec average prices frequently standing at over 30p/kg dw above the level of 12 months earlier.

"When prices weaken, people delay selling pigs," says auctioneer Mike Carter at Banbury, Oxon. "So they get bigger and even more meat comes on to the market."

And this, says Mr Carter, is why values of bacon pigs have been hit so badly. In some cases, they are worth £40 a head less than in the spring.

"Bite the bullet and sell them light," is his advice. And, like many auctioneers, he suggests the optimum time is before they reach 80-85kg liveweight.

But such advice may be confined to those using liveweight auctions, points out Paul Hoggard of Allied Livestock Marketing.

Producers who sell on a deadweight basis may be more supermarket or export orientated, he says. And in such cases, it is still generally more sensible to take pigs on to heavier weights.

"There are usually far more options for someone killing at, say, 70kg deadweight, rather than at 60kg," he says.

Meanwhile, although some commentators predict this unseasonal decline in values is about to level off, few see any reason why trade should firm much between now and Christmas. As auctioneer Mark Caley at Hull puts it: "When the bottom falls out of a market, no one knows how much further it is going to go." &#42