By Peter Crichton

UK pig prices remain fragile in the run up to Christmas, with the AESA clinging on virtually unchanged at 68.99p for the week ending 12 December.

Spot prices have edged slightly lower than contract returns, with most baconers quoted at between 62-66p.

Auction markets prices have recorded slight gains with fewer pigs on offer, valuing baconers at 52p/kg liveweight and porkers at more of a premium to average 60p/kg.

Sow prices have also hardened slightly, due to the opening up of some limited trading with Russia and the combination of private storage aid and export refunds putting a bottom into the heavier end of the market.

Most deadweight quotes for sows are between 36-40p/kg and live sows are trading in the 20-24p range.

Weaner prices have risen, reflecting a drop in overall pig numbers following heavy herd culling over the last six months.

30kg weaners are now changing hands between £16-£21 on the spot market ex-farm, against Signet-based production cost close to £30/head.

With year-end stockingtaking valuations looming, many producers will find that their balance sheets are printed in red, according to pig industry financial advisers.

Unless the industry as a whole sees a rise of 25p/kg, many more breeders will be forced out of business in the year ahead.