By Simon Wragg

CONCERN is growing that a rapid expansion of outdoor herds could undermine the pig market and put intensive producers margins at risk, warn advisers .

Speaking at last weeks Pig & Poultry Fair, Signets Derek Wells warned that trade was still in a state of flux.

Although the price gap between UK and other EU suppliers had narrowed, a significant increase in domestic production could suppress the market, he said.

Outdoor units which closed down as prices crashed in 1998 are not carrying extra borrowing costs which could add 4p/kg to indoor producers break-evens.

Combined with lower veterinary, labour and establishment costs, some advisers and economists fear outdoor units will be encouraged back in to the fragile pig market.

However, MLCs Mick Sloyan suggests the increase would have to be considerable to compensate for the number of indoor sows which have been lost from the UK breeding herd.

Traders at the show reported no sharp increase in demand for outdoor equipment; likewise breeding stock suppliers.