A welcome upturn in live fat pig values over the past month could not have come sooner, auctioneers say.
Difficult trading conditions have plagued pig farmers this winter, with higher costs and lower pork prices hammering margins for both live and deadweight producers.
But with Europe’s pig prices skyrocketing since February – up 40p/kg to 146p/kg – market UK deadweight prices will inevitably follow, analysts predict.
China’s African Swine Fever crisis has bolstered demand, and analysts say it will be a key market driver after a tightening of EU supply.
The UK’s Standard Pig Price has seen a minor 1.17p/kg lift to hit 139.84p/kg, which is making UK pork cheaper than EU meat to UK consumers.
Last week the National Pig Association criticised processors for “delaying the inevitable”, saying that prices should be rising faster.
Numbers tightened on Monday (6 May) at Market Drayton, where auctioneer Ben Baggott of Barbers sells pigs on the first and third Mondays of the month.
An entry of 31 cull sows averaged 49p/kg – 12-15p/kg dearer on the previous sale – while 101 fat pigs were 20p/kg more expensive at 117p/kg, putting £20 a head or more on finished pigs.
Weaner prices also recovered and are expected to continue lifting, with 99 weaners sold to prices more akin to six months ago, with 17-19kg weaners making £30-£40 a head.
However, prices still have some way to go to match the summer’s trade, when 80-100kg pigs and, occasionally, 60-79kg pigs averaged above 120p/kg.
“Farms receiving a bad price for the fat pigs haven’t been out to buy the store pigs, so it may take a while for things to get back into full swing again,” Mr Baggott said.
“Prices are going in the right direction. However, things can go too dear too quick. We want an increase, but we want a sustainable increase.”
Fat pig averages have also been £20-£30 dearer at Hereford, where Graham Baker of Sunderlands sells pigs fortnightly.
A large entry of 150 fat pigs saw bacon pigs sell to £100-£120 last week (2 May). Among the pick of the animals was an entry of finished Gloucester Old Spot pigs that made £102 each.
“Sow prices have also improved,” said Mr Baker. “A pig making £110 now would have made £80 through the winter.”