23 June 1995

Pig price rises come to a halt

By Philip Clarke

THE upward trend in finished pig prices has ground to a halt and traders anticipate a downturn in the coming months.

But, given the underlying shortage of numbers and the continuing high price for cull sows (£163 a head at the start of the week), the market is unlikely to collapse.

Auction prices in England and Wales on Monday (June 19) averaged 94.15p/kg lw for porkers (down 2.6p), 96.06p/kg for cutters (down 0.5p), and 94.16p/kg for baconers (down 1.3p).

"Things are looking rather fragile," said Peter Crichton at Bury St Edmunds. "Buyers are finding it hard to sell on down the chain and something has to give. Either the retailers must put more money in, or abattoirs will pay a bit less."

Given the belated arrival of summer and the likely weakening of demand, he expects prices to fall – but by no more than 5p or 6p/kg. "Abattoirs still have to maintain throughput and will have to pay a fair price given the shortage of numbers."

The slightly weaker tone to the trade had also been picked up by Mike Carter at Banbury. "But pig numbers will get shorter before they get more plentiful," he predicted, after shifting 420 finished pigs on Tuesday (June 20).

In contrast, Rugby market saw values bounce back this week from last weeks 93p/kg for porkers and 95p/kg for cutters, though this was more a reflection of the better stock on offer. But with lamb prices now dropping, auctioneer Simon Draper expected pigs to follow suit, although they would not fall as far or as fast.

And at York, Nigel Stephenson observed that the price differentials between the various weights of pig were disappearing, with little premium now available for lightweights.

&#8226 The fundamentals behind the firmer trade in the first five months of this year are spelled out by the Meat and Livestock Commission in its weekly market survey. Slaughterings are currently running at 4% below year ago levels, while exports to third countries (such as South Africa, Poland and South Korea) tripled in the first four months of 1995 to 6069t, helped by the weak £.