By FWi staff

GOOD news has come at last for UK pig producers, with an expected upturn in prices as the year progresses.

And there could even be an increase in bacon production to meet the increasing demand for British bacon, said Mick Sloyan, head of pig strategy at the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Speaking at the Agra Europe conference today (Thursday) in London, he said that the forecast recovery would be constrained by competitively priced import and export prices.

The world market is likely to continue to be well supplied with pigmeat in 1999, he said.

Production is forecast to rise by 0.5% in the EU, although the increase is likely to be concentrated in the first half of the year, before starting to plateau and then fall in the latter part of the year.

EU consumption is also likely to rise, stimulated by lower retail prices. However, it would continue to rely on exports to balance the market, said Mr Sloyan.

An 11% decline in the UK breeding herd was found in last Decembers census, along with a sharp drop in gilt numbers. Pig slaughterings are also likely to fall more sharply towards the end of this year.

“Pig prices are likely to remain under considerable pressure, despite the fall in British pig slaughterings,” said Mr Sloylan. “But there is likely to be some upturn as the year progresses and supplies tighten,” he added.