UK pigmeat hopes dashed

By Peter Crichton

HOPES of the long-awaited revival in UK pigmeat prices this month seem to have been dashed with the latest UK AESA slipping to 83.16p/kg deadweight for the week ended 3 September.

This downturn in contract prices puts the lid on any significant action in the spot market where supplies are still exceeding demand.

The picture for store pig producers is also bleak with the North/East/West ex farm 30kg weaner average stuck at £24.50, some £7.50/head below production costs.

Hopes of a rally in heavy pig prices were raised by a hike in cull sow prices last week when deadweight returns touched 70p/kg but exporters are already pulling their bid prices back by 4 to 6p/kg.

They blame high pig numbers throughout the EU and slack demand. And with manufacturing grade pigmeat in plentiful supply the cull sow market is the first to be hit.

The April 1999 European pig census flags up the numbers problem facing UK producers.

Although the domestic sow herd has fallen by 15% and gilts by 19%, herd sizes in the other major EU countries have fallen buy a far smaller margin and in the case of Denmark sow numbers have actually risen by 2%.

With reports of major expansionist moves by US hog producers into Poland and Hungary if these former Eastern European countries later become EU members products from “pig factory” type systems will also be able to undercut high welfare pigmeat produced throughout the UK.

This underlines the aim of members of the BPISG to still try and persuade all retailers and caterers to stock more UK pigmeat and for the consumer to be aware of welfare and other issues at stake.

Failing this the industry will continue to collapse in the face of cheaper imports and will go the same way as the coal and steel industry have in the UK according to Ian Campbell, the BPISG Eastern region chairman.

Although there are still signs that prices could rise marginally at the end of this month many producers fear that the banks will start to move in on some of their most heavily borrowed customers and receivers will have a busy Autumn.

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