By Peter Crichton

FOOT-AND-MOUTH movement restrictions are continuing to play havoc with pig production and marketing for many producers.

One big East Anglian operator alone has over 10,000 store pigs “trapped” in the South of England where there is no available finishing space.

These pigs would normally be destined for finishing units in the Eastern region but because of movement licence restrictions cannot be moved.

Although the Welfare Slaughter Scheme was designed to cater for these situations, since the payment rates were slashed on the 30 April, few producers have been able to “give away” their stock at prices which would leave them in a negative equity situation.

The National Pig Association is taking the government to task over the Welfare Slaughter Scheme and are claiming that the way in which the 22 March payments were cut on 30 April amount to a breach of contract.

The NPA claims that the government has reneged on its undertaking that the scheme would last for two months, and say that the whole issue may end up in the law courts.

Pig numbers are also being hit by the spread of the virus PDNS/PMWS.

Although formerly confined to East Anglia this has now spread to most parts of the country and could wipe out an estimated 10% of finished pig production in affected areas.

On a country-wide basis this amounts to almost 20,000 pigs per week, slightly more than the current Malton kill.

PDNS/PMWS is, however, an EU-wide problem and it is also hitting production in many parts of Europe.

PMWS was first diagnosed in Spain in 1997, and France was believed to have been infected soon afterwards. As a result pig supply in Europe is slightly on the tight side which should help to keep prices firm.

There is, however, reported to be a bottleneck of pigs in Holland, which will hit the market as their export restrictions are eased further.

Currently Dutch pigs are being traded at around 90p/kg and, with the Euro slipping in value to under 61p, these potential imports could take the shine off UK prices.

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