By Peter Crichton

MANY UK pig producers are still unhappy with the current performance of marketing groups during the longest price collapse in living memory made worse by the latest price cuts by the proicessors.

More militant pig-farmers are even considering tearing up contracts and selling to the highest bidder.

Although steps were taken to sharpen the effectiveness of nine of the countrys major marketeers by the recent formation United Pig Marketing Ltd, producers claim that this has lost its way and failed to deliver.

At a series of meetings between British Pig Industry Support Group members and some of the groups involved earlier this week, widespread criticism was levelled at the overall group marketing system.

Ways were suggested in which it could be improved.

One issue was the failure of the four-group deal with Avonmore to source all their pigs.

At the launch of this new project in there were claims that it would provide suppliers with more stability in the market and a premium price.

Recent analysis has shown that the net Avonmore price has failed to match prices paid by their competitors.

At the same time, the supplying groups are locked into the contract for an initial 12 months which producers claimed at the meetings reduced their bargaining power.

A more radical suggestion to inject more power into the pricing process from the producers end is a call to return to the old system of free bargaining between buyers and sellers, only consigning pigs after the price has been agreed.

Most pigs now sold in the UK are on a contractural or supply agreement basis where the producer is already committed regardless of price.

Producers are looking at selling systems based on the cereal market, where the price is agreed before delivery is discussed.

Some groups, such as UPB Porcofram, have claimed that they have made the best of a bad job.

But reports from country-wide meetings are that some of the hardest pressed producers may start tearing up contracts and serving immediate notice as they can no longer afford to sell their pigs except to the highest bidder.

With prices expected to improve in the autumn and numbers continuing to slip, it should come as no surprise to some of the larger abattoirs if they have to start to compete for their dwindling supplies on a weekly pricing basis.

Members of the British Pig Industry Support Group are militant over the pricing issue, say their representatives.

But Houston and Ian Campbell, from the BPISG northern and eastern regions BPISG feel that the timing of any proposed instant withdrawal from contracts should be carefully considered.

A better time to act might be to coincide with the usual seasonal upturn in prices this autumn, rather than now when demand is slack.

As one leading East Anglian producer put it, “Max Hilliard has served me notice on behalf of Malton three times in the past year – I may only need to do it once to him”.