By James Garner
PIG prices suffered traditional January blues last week, easing back from their pre-Christmas levels.
But most commentators suspect the price pressure is due to a festive hangover, rather than long-term illness.
Underlying prospects look reasonably healthy, but January is a notoriously difficult month for marketing stock and this year appears little different, particularly for pigs.
All sorts of factors are at play, including Maltons closure of its Middlesbrough plant before Christmas.
This was blamed by some deadweight buyers for knocking prices before last weekend.
In Northampton market, 1000 pigs were sold to a good trade on 04 January of 78p-90p/kg liveweight.
Its auctioneer, Mike Carter, said that compared favourably with northern markets, which were trading lower at 77p/kg.
He added that deadweight buyers pulled the trade back by as much as 5-6p/kg in places at the close of last week, using Maltons decision to close Middlesbrough and reduce its kill by 10,000 pigs to cut values.
“If other UK abattoirs are picking up the surplus 10,000 pigs in the market then this should not be applying pressure to the price.
“But if Malton are killing the same amount of pigs, and importing the surplus then there will be an extra 10,000 pigs on the market,” he said.
A Malton spokesman said it was not importing any more pigs than before, but there are more being marketed.
This has been caused by poor pre-Christmas growth rates and slack demand for lighter pigs in the festive period.
Independent market specialist Peter Crichton sees the finished pig price downturn as a blip, rather than a major wobble in the market.
Underlying the trade is a shortage of UK pigs and, with the Euro strengthening by 4% from 19 December last year to 63.3p on Monday (08 January), prospects look better.
According to Mr Crichton, the BSE-hit meat market on the Continent is having a far bigger affect than Maltons plant closure.
This may have caused UK sow values to fall on Monday to 37p/kg, 10p/kg lower than the week before, primarily because of BSE fears in Germany, he said.