GB pig prices halted 21 weeks of consecutive decline in the week ending 20 January, as the EU-spec Standard Pig Price (SPP) settled at 148.25p/kg, just 0.03p/kg up on the previous week.
This five-month period has seen the EU-spec SPP decline by more than 16p/kg, with a 1.5p/kg reduction coming in the previous week ending 13 January, according to AHDB Pork.
Industry analysts have estimated a total cost of production for EU-spec SPP Red Tractor Assured animals of between 135-140p/kg deadweight, achieving a margin of between 7-10p/kg.
This gives producers a margin of £5.60-£8.00 per head, representing a drop of between 33.3-53.3% compared to this time 12 months ago.
The latest EU-spec All Pig Price (APP) dropped by 1.28p to 151.38p/kg in the week ending 13 January, driving the gap between APP and SPP to 3.16p.
An abundant supply continued to outweigh demand in the UK, driving uncertainty as to whether this relative price stability can be maintained, say analysts.
UK throughputs increased during the week to 185,200 head, 5% up on the previous week and 10% higher than the same period in 2017.
EU driving down prices
A resurgent pound saw the euro take a hit, leading to some of the lowest sow prices on the continent since mid-2016, according to the latest AHDB Pork figures for the week ending 14 January.
The start of the year is traditionally a difficult time for pork prices as a rise in supply is met by a reduction in demand.
This was compounded by the EU reference price declining for the ninth consecutive month, down by a substantial 3.06p to 119.55p/kg for the week ending 21 January.
The largest price falls were felt by producers in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, whose average price took hits of 5.4p, 4.57p and 4.29p to 103p/kg, 110.67p/kg and 119.12p/kg in the same week, respectively.
AHDB Pork’s latest figures for November 2017 showed a 3.7% year-to-date increase of UK pork imports to 411,568t.
The strengthening pound has increased the threat of export competition from the continent.
Despite imports of Danish pork falling 4.25% to 144,836t over the same period, Germany and the Netherlands picked up the slack, increasing shipments to the UK by 17% to 72,793t and 12.36% to 50,632t, respectively.
An increase in sales volumes of pork at retail was an encouraging sign for UK producers, with pork sales up 2% year-on-year for the 24 weeks ended 31 December, despite retail prices also going up, according to the latest Kantar Worldpanel data.
There was further good news as UK exports of fresh and frozen pork edged up a single percentage point in the year to November 2017.
Shipments to the EU increased by 1.9% to 122,731t compared with the same period the year before, while exports to China nudged 0.8% upwards to 37,738t, despite Chinese total imports of pork falling by one-quarter across 2017.