By Peter Crichton
THE return of private storage aid would help the market to digest the extra supplies now coming forward and put a bottom in the market at a difficult time of year, according to a number of abattoir operators.
However, once the backlog of pigs has been cleared up finished pig numbers are forecast to drop.
According to the Meat and Livestock Commission clean pig slaughterings which fell from 14 million in 1998 to about 12.5m in 1999 could slip by a further 10% to 11.25m (216,000/week) this year.
Other trade sources believe that the drop could be greater than this and the weekly kill could fall below 200,000 compared with over 300,000 two years earlier.
The MAFF year end census figures should paint a more accurate picture.
But sow slaughterings are pointing to much higher numbers of in pig sows in their lairages rather the pattern a year earlier when producers simply stepped up the cull rate of unproductive sows.
This trend, coupled with a lower gilt replacement rate, will have a major impact on the availability of slaughter pigs by June and could also lead to the closure of some UK abattoirs who will be short of throughput.
On the price front although the UK AESA moved up by 1.6p/kg to stand at 76.36p/kg for the week ended 1 January, latest spot quotes have been stand on at best while most have slipped by 2-4p/kg.
Live markets have also reflected the general post holiday weakness of the trade with the average market price for the week down by 5p/kg liveweight at just 57p equivalent to 77p/kg deadweight.
Weaner prices have moved ahead despite of negative finished pig returns. The Farmers Weekly 30kg weaner price has improved by 1.32/head over the last two weeks and is now quoted at 19.60/head.
Pig traders believe that this price hike is tied to a shortage in available weaner numbers rather than any long term confidence in finished pig prices.
Even at this slightly improved level this still represents a loss of about 10 for every pig leaving the farm gate.
- Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry