By Peter Crichton
DESPITE the decline in UK finished pig numbers, and the estimated March throughput of 279,000 – similar levels to March 1997, meat traders continue to complain of reduced margins.
This could lead to abattoir closures in the months ahead if volumes continue to shrink in an industry which has plenty of spare capacity at present.
The recent rise in store pig prices has also been checked, due to a loss of confidence among finishers of the viability of the slaughter pig market in 12 weeks time.
Weaners at 30kg are now being traded at close to £30/head and have lost £2 to £3 in value in the past four weeks.
The lack of any real hope for a recovery in pigmeat prices before the usual summer price dip has lead more producers to decide to quit according to cull sow buyers.
They report forward bookings are starting to build up again despite of prices of as low as 33p/kg liveweight being quoted.
One ray of hope is the announcement of a Bill in Parliament under the 10-Minute Rule to ban all imports which fail to meet current UK welfare standards.
Although the Bill is being sponsored by former Tory junior Agriculture Minister Tony Baldry, very few 10-minute Bills make it to the statute book.
If it does, there are fears that other EU members may cry foul and leave the UK open to action from Brussels to lift any ban which may be imposed.