By Peter Crichton
WEEKLY sow slaughterings have boomed as the crisis in the pig sector continues. More than 8000 sows are being slaughtered every week, compared with a pre-crisis level of 6500.
The countrys three main export sow abattoirs are working at full capacity and are reported to have long waiting lists of more sows awaiting slaughter.
The abattoirs indicate a higher-than-average number of in-pig sows and unsold maiden gilts going through the system. Combined with a big drop in breeding gilt orders, the signs are that there will be a major drop in live pig numbers in the UK six months ahead.
Cull sow prices are still falling and many producers are caught in a “negative equity” trap. Sows included in end-of-year valuations and balance sheets at £140/head are now worth no more than 36p/kg deadweight, equivalent to little more than £40. As one farmer ruefully pointed out: “I cant afford to stay in pigs and I cant afford to get out.”
The decision by Malton Bacon to drop contract buying based on the All-Average Pig Price (AAPP) is seen by many in the industry as the start of the rot. The final irony is that the Malton fixed price of 84p/kg is now one of the best prices in the industry. Had they stuck to the AAPP system, Malton procurement managers would now be buying at around 10p/kg less.
But many pundits are speculating that the Malton fixed price will soon drop to around 72p, and it should not come as a surprise to producers if this does indeed happen.