Monday, 7 January, 2002

By Peter Crichton

A WIDE gap is opening up in prices being paid for finished pigs on the UK market.

Producers supplying some of the major abattoirs – including Grampian (Malton), Glanbia, Dalehead Foods and George Adams – have seen their returns continuing to continued to slip over the past four weeks.

These plants are all paying weekly prices of 96-98p for pig supplies over the next seven days.

This reduction has followed the fall in the UK AESA, which lost another 2p this week to stand at 99.78p, compared with 105.77p in mid-December.

At the other end of the scale, many of the smaller abattoirs and wholesalers supplying high street butchers and bespoke outlets are prepared to pay UK producers premium prices for pigs.

Their quotes this week for 50kg to 60kg handyweight pigs have been as high as 112p, with most between 106p and 110p.

Bacon weights supplied to the same outlets have also been traded at prices of between 106p and 100p/kg, often on a flat-rate UK spec, which is worth another 4-6p/kg when compared with graded Euro Spec prices on a grid.

According to the MLC, because of the fall in UK pig numbers over the past two years, almost 50,000 of the 220,000 weekly kill is now going to smaller abattoirs supplying the high street trade.

Although this 50,000 figure has remained fairly static, in percentage terms it has risen from an estimated 16%, when the kill stood at over 300,000 three years ago, to almost 25% of the total UK output now.

Because of the premiums available at some of these smaller outlets and their easier grading terms, many producers are looking at setting up supply contracts of locally produced pork to regional outlets.

This is often an attractive alternative to competing with the mass-produced commodity end of the market where imports are still undercutting domestic prices.

Currently Dutch producers are receiving below 80p/kg and imports from Holland to the UK market are running at the weekly rate of over 3000 tonnes equivalent to 44,000 pigs each week.

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