26 October 2001

Sow prices perking up

By Robert Harris

PIG markets are firming after Brussels recent decision to allow exports to resume from several regions in the UK, even though the start date has been put back.

Shipments, theoretically possible from the beginning of this week, were delayed by a lack of paperwork from DEFRA. Nevertheless, cull sow prices have risen sharply, spot quotes for baconers are up and contract prices should follow.

"Sows on the home market are fetching up to 40p/kg liveweight, up 10-15p on the week, and export quality sows are worth more," said Suffolk-based consultant Peter Crichton.

With some pork due to go abroad too, other prices are firming, though slowly. "On the spot market, baconers were up 1-3p to 100p/kg last Friday and the hope is that they will climb by a few more pence at the end of this week.

"And although it will take three weeks before the effect feeds through to the AESA price, which slipped slightly last Friday to stand at 93.15p/kg, most people are hoping it will hit 100p by Christmas."

The main downside is that pig prices in Europe are not particularly high, so the value of the k remains critical, he added. Most Continental markets are at 87-101p/kg.

Paul Cheale, director of Essex-based Cheale Meats, is keen to start exporting as soon as possible from the companys Pilgrims plant in Norfolk.

"We havent been able to start this week as expected, because DEFRA hasnt got the infrastructure in place. But we should get details shortly and we could start in the middle of next week."

Mr Cheale has buyers waiting in Germany, though he described trading conditions as tough. With only 40% of UK pigmeat eligible for export under the current rules, UK prices are unlikely to rise sharply, he added. However, he hoped that export-spec sows delivered to the Norfolk plant would be worth 60p/kg.

"But it will be a month or two before the market sorts itself out," he said. "But we shall be doing as much as we can as soon as we can."

A DEFRA spokeswoman admitted the export paperwork had taken longer than anticipated to put in place. But she added getting it to companies by the middle of next week was "more than feasible". &#42