2 June 1995

Shortages and weather dominate

By Tim Relf

PIG prices continue firm, as a shortage of numbers supports the trade.

At Bridgnorth, auctioneer Michael Walters says: "I doubt if the trade will rocket, but it looks set to stay at about the 95p/kg-mark. It could even nudge up to 100p/kg."

Colchester, meanwhile, has seen a "hardening" of values for all good-quality stock over the past few weeks. "Numbers are still short of requirements," says auctioneer Graham Ellis, predicting a period of price stability.

"What we dont want," he adds, "is a very hot spell, as this could affect demand."

Slightly less concerned about the weathers influence is Banburys Mike Carter. "Its all to do with supply and demand," he says. "And there are still a lot of farmers getting out of pigs."

He points to the brisk trade for cull sows as contributing to some producers decision to leave the industry. Plus, he says, the prospect of tether legislation – albeit some time away – may be speeding their exit.

Cull sow values have, however, eased recently. "Dipped from 72p/kg to 69p/kg last week," says Chris Clubley at Selby.

Meanwhile, in the finished ring, the trend towards heavier pigs continues. At Bridgnorth, almost twice as many cutters as baconers used to be sold. Now the numbers are broadly similar. "Heavier pigs are a more versatile product," says Mr Walters.

Plus, with the brisk trade for store pigs (up £8 last week at Bridgnorth), producers seem keen to take them to heavier weights to ensure their margin.

"And it is among the heavier animals that the price improvements have been most marked," says auctioneer Simon Draper at Rugby. "But, of course, quality is still vital."

With no immediate rise in slaughterings likely, most auctioneers are suggesting that the trade is set for a period of relative stability.

"With less pigs about this year, we may find the seasonal variation is less marked than in the past," says Mr Walters.

At Hull, auctioneer Mark Caley points to the recent "inconsistency of pattern" caused by the bank holidays. He also remarks that a weak lamb market could have a dampening affect on pigmeat demand.

"But the underlying trend is for shorter numbers," he says. "Prices will be maintained, and may even get a bit dearer." &#42