By Peter Crichton

INDUSTRY experts are warning that it may be the autumn before producers see a significant recovery in prices – and even then this may still not reach the cost of production by the end of the year.

To underline the difficult summer ahead for the industry, the UK AESA slipped this week after several months of steady recovery to stand at 84.83p/kg, down by 0.24p on the previous week.

Price levels during May-August traditionally decline and the MLC has been forced to concede that its earlier forecasts of 100p/kg-plus returns in the first half of 1999 have proved to be both inaccurate and misleading.

Weaner prices have also continued to reflect poor prospects for finished pig returns in the next four months.

The average spot 30kg weaner price has fallen to £26.20, representing a loss of about £6/head for every pig leaving the farm.

On the positive side, meat traders have welcomed the rise in farm assured pigs produced in the UK.

The ABM and FABPigs assurance scheme is believed to account for 70-80% of abattoir throughput, with Malton being the most notable absentee.

Many northern pig producers are reported to be incensed by the latest announcement by Malton boss Max Hilliard that his company feels free to handle imported pigmeat for further processing if he cannot source competitive supplies from the home market.

The imported product would fail to match many of the standards of the much-trumpeted “Malton Code” launched a few years ago.

This could lead to further protests aimed at Malton and calls for the larger supermarkets supplied by Malton to insist on the UK product.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry