By Peter Crichton

A GIANT new marketing group is set to be formally announced at next weeks Pig and Poultry Fair, it has been confirmed.

Robin Pooley, former Anglian Produce supremo, in his new role as independent chairman, is expected to explain the objectives of this new initiative.

The aim is to try and give hard-pressed UK producers more muscle in their dealings with abattoir buyers.

This link-up of nine marketing groups is intended to try and achieve market stability through discussion rather than confrontation and to iron out the peaks and troughs of a highly volatile market, according to Robin Pooley.

It is expected that the new set-up will trade under the overall banner of United Pig Marketing, but all members will retain their own identity.

Although the nine founder members include some of the major players in the industry, others are notable by their absence.

Thames Valley Livestock and the Pig Marketing Company have decided to go it alone, as well as two large compounders, Dalgety and BOCM Pauls.

These four pig traders are thought to account for between 15 and 20% of all finished pigs handled in the UK.

A possible conflict with the 15 February link-up between Avonmore and two of the new “super-group” members, UPB Porcofram and Meadow Valley Livestock is also on the cards.

Producers have generally welcomed the proposed tie-up of these groups if it leads to a better negotiating position.

But there are fears that, until the UK slaughtering sector adopts a common buying specification, it will be impossible for a standard price to be set by any new group.

With killing-out percentages varying by as much as 4% between plants and widely differing grading, weight range and payment terms, it will be hard to come up with a uniform price claim for pig finishers.

United Pig Marketing hopes to handle about 30% of the UK herd once the scheme is up and running, and plans to attract more of the smaller independent groups to sign up.