January 8, 2004



UK Pigmeat Outlook Remains Uncertain


Although Britain's pigmeat prices rose by an average of 9p/kg in 2003, pigmeat outlook for the first part of the New Year remains uncertain.


Pigmeat values across Europe have plummeted by 24p/kg since September, ending the year at just 72p/kg.


EU breeding sow and gilt numbers fell by 3% in 2003, to 15.7 million, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission, but Danish, Dutch and Italian herds all grew over the same period.


EU enlargement in April will push the UK further down the league table, with Germany, Spain and Poland alone accounting for more than 50% of the pig breeding population in Europe.


The UK share of this market is now only 4.1%.


Feed prices continue to be a major concern, with drought causing feed wheat values to almost double in a year, to £104/t ex-farm.


Soya prices have also surged with ex-dock prices of close to £200/t compared with £150 at the end of 2002.


A stronger Euro, which ended 2003 at 70.5p compared with 65p a year earlier, has raised the cost of imported feed further, but has also beneficially increased the price of pigmeat imports.


The British Pig Executive forecasts that the annual 2004 UK kill will increase to just over 9 million finished pigs.


But lower maiden gilt numbers and more producers leaving the industry mean that slaughter numbers could decline significantly from this estimate.


Once again the future viability of the UK pig industry will be dictated by the strength of the Pound, the International value of pigmeat and the cost of feedstuffs.


Any significant variation in each of these will tilt the balance one way or the other but with feed costs at current levels, a significant rise in pigmeat prices must be the main New Year's wish for all concerned.