By Peter Crichton
UK pig prices are up 1.3% this month, while recent EU price data shows up to a 15% slump in producer returns.
Meat traders are blaming the collapse of confidence in the Russian market and point out that, apart from France, the UK now has the highest farmgate prices of all the major EU pig production countries.
Concerted campaigning from the British Pig Industry Support Group has put pressure on retailers and caterers to buy the UK product, and demand for home-reared pigmeat has been stimulated.
However, slaughterings remain high at 318,000 head for the week in October compared with 305,000 in 1997, and marketing groups are saying that until UK numbers start to tighten up it will be difficult to see prices rise much higher.
The strong Pound, is still traded at about DM2.80, is adding to the problems facing the home market with imports still cheap, and export opportunities hard to find.
Although the UK retail sector is also reporting shrinking margins with down beat profit forecasts from many supermarkets and food groups farmers are still concerned over the percentage mark up in prices between the farm and shop counter.
According to Signet, the consultancy arm of the Meat and Livestock Commission, the difference between the average retail price and the AAPP now stands at 448%. This compares with 255% in October 1996 and 303% a year ago.
- Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry