Shrinking pig herd hits processors

By Peter Crichton

THERE are further signs of how the drop in UK pig numbers will affect the slaughtering sector, too.

Unigate is reported to have undertaken a 79 million restructuring operation and have forecast a profits warning.

Press reports highlight cuts of up to a fifth in their workforce at Malton Foods in their pig processing division and the closure of three sites.

Sources believe that most of these cuts will apply to their Irish operations but, with pig numbers slipping in Great Britain, it should come as no surprise if there are further closures here too.

Although the Pound took another leap on the currency markets this week to close at more than DM3.26, domestic pig prices have remained firm at “stand on” levels.

The UK AESA only managed to put on under 1p to 91.49p, and most spot deadweight opening quotes are also at similar levels to last week.

Because of the shortage of heavy pigs in the system, there is little spread between the weight ranges, and a “one priced pig” seem to be the trend, with most quotes between 94-100p/kg deadweight.

Demand for weaners remains strong especially in the North according to group traders.

The Farmers Weekly 30kg ex-farm average weaner price now stands at 32.42/head, ranging from 29.92 in East Anglia to 35.33 in the Yorkshire region.

However, as one trader pointed out, although prices were much better, he had no spare pigs to offer whatever the price was.

Cull sow returns would have moved further up this week if the Pound had remained stable but, in spite of this, quotes are still holding firm between 66=70p/kg deadweight, almost double their levels at the start of the year.

Heavy sows are now worth over 100, which will provide some relief on the balance sheets for those producers whose financial year ends on 5 April.

  • Peter Crichton is a Suffolk-based pig farmer offering independent valuation and consultancy services to the UK pig industry

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