19 January 1996

Pig prices find more stability

HAVING tumbled in the early New Year, more stability has now returned to market pig prices.

But Mondays all-weights average still showed a drop of nearly 2p/kg on the week to 103.79p/kg.

The recent weakening of trade was widely expected, coming as it did after a spell of spiralling values. The week ending Dec 23, for example, saw cutters reach 116.6p/kg lw, according to the MLC.

Such prices should, however, have been regarded by producers as a "bonus", says auctioneer Peter Crichton at Wickham, Suffolk. "January and February are very fragile months," he says. "And at the moment, imports seem to be taking the edge off the trade."

Mr Crichton points to the underlying shortage of numbers which should now help keep trade steady.

The MLC agree, saying there have no significant indications of any upturn in the pig breeding herd.

November slaughterings, for example, were nearly 9% down on a year earlier. And in early-December, the level was 6% down.

Revised figures from MAFF also point to a much lower than expected number of pigs coming forward from the June census. Total pigs in England were 3.8% down (compared with a 0.3% decline previously estimated) while the breeding herd was down 5.5% (compared with a 2.8% provisional estimate).

The impact of last years hot summer on sow productivity also seems likely to be felt in the near future. &#42