By Peter Crichton

THE latest UK pig slaughter numbers reveal a continuing downward trend after over a year of negative producer returns.

The 1998 April/May weekly kill averaged 296,000/week compared with 266,000/week this time – a drop of 11%.

If this trend continues, analysts have pointed to year-end weekly figures of close to 225,000 and perhaps even lower.

The consequences of this drop will be severe for all sectors of the industry, not just the producers.

With the UK having current weekly slaughter capacity for 330,000 head, further abattoir closures are on the cards, with the small to medium spot buyers bearing the brunt.

The recent Avonmore decision to put the pressure on four marketing groups to find the pigs needed for a plant of its size flags up concern in the slaughtering sector over future supplies.

Malton, which claims to handle about 35% of the UK throughput, look particularly vulnerable at present.

It has taken to ringing many of its major producers, demanding to know exact numbers available in the months ahead.

However, with EU prices still lagging up to 25p/kg behind UK returns, domestic abattoirs are faced with the prospect of pushing for numbers from a shrinking supply base.

At the same time they would be selling the product on to an undercut home market.

Those producers who do not sell their pigs through a marketing group providing 100% insurance cover against bad debts should view all outlets with caution in the months ahead.

Trade Indemnity Ltd can provide individual producers with bad debt insurance cover against specified abattoirs, provided that the firms in question have filed satisfactory year-end accounts and that TI is not already over-exposed to individual meat plants.

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