17 July 1998

Pig prices on the decline

FINANCIAL pressures are mounting on pig farmers as prices continue to slide downwards.

Mondays average at markets in England and Wales was 57.8p/kg lw, a drop of 4.4p on the week.

"Prices have gone down week after week," says auctioneer Chris Clubley at Selby, North Yorks.

"People are thinking about getting out – and it will probably happen in the next four weeks. You cant continue producing at these levels."

But Bury St Edmunds-based consultant Peter Crichton reckons contraction of the industry is being slowed by the negative equity position in which some farmers find themselves.

"Its like the housing market in the early 1990s," he says. "Some people cant afford to stay in – but they cant afford to get out, either."

Partly to blame is the drop in cull sow values. Now they are worth £60 to £70, says Mr Crichton, compared with about double that a year ago.

According to latest estimates from the Meat and Livestock Commission, no downturn in slaughterings is likely until later in the year, leaving the 1998 total at 15.54m head, up 3% on 1997. The forecast for 1999 is for 14.8m.

"It is a very well-supplied market," says MLCs Duncan Sinclair. &#42