Deadweight pig trade still hampered by FMD backlog

The aftermath of Foot-and-Mouth disease movement restrictions, first imposed on 3 August, continue to cause major problems in the supply chain and could put downward pressure on deadweight pig prices.

A significant backlog of pigs has yet to be cleared which has meant that average slaughter weights are now 3kg higher than the norm.

According to Meat & Livestock Commission figures, pigs weighing more than 80kg now account for over half of all deadweight pigs.

Coupled with this, there are plentiful supplies of lower-priced imports and limited potential for processors to use up manufacturing-grade shoulder meat on the domestic market.

Traders now fear that it is unlikely that there will be enough time between now and the Christmas closedown to clear the backlog.

Resumption of exports

Although pigmeat exports have now resumed from much of the country, most of this trade is linked to cull sow slaughterings which are also reported at high levels.

And the latest forecasts for UK pigmeat supplies point to a further contraction in the breeding herd in 2008. 

But this could meant that no real drop will be seen in finished pig availability until late 2008 or early 2009 by which time slaughterings will be at their lowest level for over 50 years.

Price penalties

The backlog of heavy pigs may also put downward pressure on average deadweight prices because heavier carcass weights are worth less.  Pigs at the top end of the weight range are also penalised by higher back fat measurements, leading to further price reductions.

Although pigmeat prices worldwide remain under pressure, the lower welfare requirements associated with foreign production will undercut the domestic market due to higher productivity and cost savings associated with intensive production systems.