By Peter Crichton

FALLING UK pig numbers have made the country a net importer of pigs, with the equivalent of 37,000 Dutch pigs per week now feeding into the retail and catering sectors.

A result of the high level of imports undercutting the home market has been to squeeze the margins of the slaughtering and wholesale sectors still further.

Hutsons (Beccles) Ltd has now completed its management buy-out arrangements, to the relief of many pig producers in the region, and the East Anglian plant has now reopened for business.

A company spokesman said that the company anticipates killing 5000 pigs next week, and had received strong support from its many suppliers and customers during the interim period.

Providing that all goes according to plan, Hutsons hopes to remain a major force in the market, as well as providing a key outlet for the large number of pig producers in the area who were faced with trucking pigs long distances to find alternative markets.

However, another company that has failed to remain open is B&C Meats of Harlow in Essex.

This was a large-scale wholesaler and user of mainly pork and some beef products.

It ceased trading on Tuesday. At this stage B&C is believed to owe what are described as “six-figure sums” to a number of supplying abattoirs, which could have a knock-on effect as far as the viability of these firms is concerned.

Although many meat traders are protected by bad-debt insurance, this is not always the case, and those sellers who sold on an uninsured basis remain vulnerable.

For this reason, pig producers are advised to sell to abattoirs on an insured-only basis – either through a secure marketing group, or by setting up their own bad-debt cover.

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