26 April 1996

Pig values fall from BSE peak

FEW expected the dramatic rise in pig prices following the BSE scare to be maintained. And the pundits have been proved right, with auction values down over 20p/kg on their early-April peak.

Latest Meat and Livestock Comm-ission figures show the average all-weights price on Monday (Apr 22) standing at 108.37p/kg.

At Wickham, Suffolk, auctioneer Peter Crichton was pleased with the averages on Monday, which put porkers at 116p/kg; cutters at 115p/kg; and baconers at 106p/kg.

Recent high prices drew in imports, he says. "Imported legs, particularly, undermined the market. Lighter-weight pigs are less vulnerable to import competition than the heavier ones, though," he adds.

But buyers are increasingly reluctant to keep stocks. "Abattoirs will only buy if they know they can sell straight away."

But with demand stable, and the underlying shortage of pigs continuing, the outlook for pig farmers remains good, says Mr Crichton.

"If trade dips it will be because of competition from abroad, rather than because of a surplus of pigs."

The MLC agrees, suggesting that the widely-heralded upturn in clean pig supplies – originally expected in the last quarter of this year – is now unlikely to be seen until early in 1997.

Continuing producer reluctance to expand output has been the reason. "Memories of the bad times and high feed costs are contributing," says MLCs Tony Fowler.

Imports and consumer resistance to the recent high prices led to the inevitable re-adjustment downwards in values, he says. But demand remains buoyant.

And this is confirmed by statistics from the Audits of Great Britain (AGB), which show household purchases of pork up 6% on 1995 levels during the four weeks to Apr 7.