By Peter Crichton

A WEEK ago there were several indicators pointing to a better future for the UK pig industry. But a series of challenges remains.

A further decline in the number of slaughter pigs in the system was flagged up by the latest MLC weekly slaughter statistics, which for late October have slumped to 216,000 head.

This represents a massive 22% drop on the year and 33% down against October 1998.

The reduction in the size of the UK herd is one of the reasons why Malton Foods announced the closure of its Middlesborough factory, with the loss of 450 jobs.

The Malton weekly throughput has fallen to around 50,000 pigs compared with close to 80,000 two years ago.

According to company sources Malton will be sourcing up to 50% of its requirements as imported carcass meat rather than relying on the home market.

Dalehead Foods recent acquisition of the BQP/BQF pigs-to-slaughter operation puts them into number two spot in the slaughtering league table and comes with a clear commitment to continue to source large quantities of UK reared pigmeat.

Because of forecasts of more falls in the UK herd total, trade sources are pointing to further abattoir mergers and closures, due to the impact of reduced throughputs on fixed costs.

These will apply as far as all sectors of the trade are concerned, leading to a lack of competition from a shrinking number of buyers.

The effects of the virus PDNS & PMWS are also being felt in the market place with mortality as high as 30% on affected units.

Leading breeding companies have confirmed that some of their breeding units have been affected and veterinary sources have indicated that the virus has now travelled outside East Anglia and is hitting other parts of the country.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry