By Peter Crichton

EVIDENCE of a reduction in the size of the UK sow herd is starting to filter through on the finished pig market.

Although most February weekly slaughtering totals still hit the 300,000 mark, the March figures tell a different story.

The latest statistics indicate weekly returns of about 285,000 compared with an average of 303,000 in March 1998.

At the same time, thanks to the efforts of the British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG), some retailers are switching their attention to home-produced rather than imported pigmeat which should help to maintain demand on the domestic market despite low EU prices.

BPISG members claim that they will continue to monitor supplies on the supermarket shelf and will carry out audit trails throughout the EU if they feel that any pigmeat offered does not comply with UK welfare and other standards.

They also warn of further militant action against any retailers who break ranks along the lines of the recent blockade of supermarket chain, Somerfields northern and southern distribution centres.

Tesco has already seen its Dutch supplies probed in this way by members of the support group and further investigations are in hand.

Warning shots were fired at any abattoirs handling Irish pigs when a proposed sow boycott of Pilgrims Norfolk abattoir lead to a announcement by the company that this trade would cease.