TIGHT PIG supply lines in many EU countries have kept prices at firm levels during the normally volatile summer trading period.
Although the size of the German herd has risen by 4.5% over the past year, most other EU countries are reporting numbers at similar or slightly lower levels.
According to the Meat and Livestock Commission annual slaughterings in the UK are now equivalent to 9.1 million pigs a year. This compares with 15.9 million in 1998.
Abattoir closures have been a casualty of falling numbers, the latest of which is the planned closure of Pilgrims’ South Norfolk abattoir.
Until recently, they were one of the largest British cull sow export abattoirs, also handling significant numbers of finished pigs.
But there are some signs of a modest revival in UK slaughter pig availability.
The MLC are predicting higher output in the second half of the year due to improved sow productivity and heavier carcass weights, which have grown 7.5kg in eight years to 73.7kg.
Average P2 (fat) measurements have also fallen with a current measurement of 10.7 mm compared with 11.3 mm in 2003.
Pigmeat imports continue to fill the gap left by falling UK numbers and monthly supplies rose more than a third to 36,000t during the March/April period.
But pork exports have also risen by more than 20% in the first four months of 2005, reaching just under 30,000t as demand grows in new EU member states.
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have an increasing appetite for pork cuts and offal from British pigs.