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Free Fallin'

16th May 2020 / By Peter Crichton

Another challenging week draws to a close, but despite the hurdles posed by COVID-19 the whole UK pig meat supply chain has managed to emerge at the end of the week more or less intact, although some abattoirs were facing difficulties in meeting the working distance rules in their processing plants.

However, by the end of the week most pigs had been accounted for one way or another.

Although European prices have remained under pressure with the latest German producer price quoted at 160 EUR, which is equivalent to 142p in our money, weekly contribution prices have held at similar levels and will soon be scheduled as an ancient monument, having remained unmoved since early December 2019 within the 155p – 163p range.

The spot market proved to be surprisingly firm with some abattoirs still looking for pigs and prices tended to be within a fairly wide range of between 164p – 172p/kg according to spec.

Unfortunately, the cull sow market seems to go from bad to terrible and has continued its nose drive with early indications on Friday of falls of up to 13p/kg equivalent to around 60p/kg, although later on in the day slightly firmer price levels were under negotiation to try and ease the pain to some extent. Bearing in mind prices of over 120p/kg were available as recently as March, we're now in BOGOF (buy one get one free) territory despite a relatively firm Euro, which traded today worth 88.61p.

The weaner market remains more or less in balance between supply and demand with the 7kg AHDB ex farm average quoted at £42.64/head but the 30kg average slipped by £2.06 to £59.14/head.

Despite all the uncertainty concerning pig prices and feed costs in the future, weaner demand has remained reasonably firm and hopefully will stay that way, especially if we see firmer finished pig prices due to many Britons having to stay at home due to travel restrictions, although this to some extent will be diluted by the lack of foreign visitors coming here and eating British meat.

Feed ingredient prices have remained reasonably stable with UK feed wheat traded for June at £158/t and for September at £166/t.

Feed barley deals have been agreed at £132/t for June and £133/t for September.

UK ex farm spot feed wheat prices have been slightly firmer averaging £147.20/t.

Protein prices are a touch firmer with Hipro soya for June contracts at £311/t and longer months saw soya traded between November – April 2021 at £309/t.

Rain across Europe (excluding the UK) and lower demand may help to pull grain prices down a touch and the same downward tilt was seen in the Chicago maize and wheat markets.

And finally, unfortunately the current Coronavirus, which seems like an updated version of the Black Death, continues to inflict disastrous human and financial consequences with no real sign of an end. But as far as the pig industry is concerned the old saying 'farm as though you intend to live forever' is appropriate, with UK pig meat supply chains generally remaining intact but a repeat of the level of problems being faced by US pig farmers would be a disaster.

The recent news that the proposed terms of the Agricultural Bill including legislation to ensure import standards including pig meat would disrupt meat supplies has led to concern that post Brexit the UK could be vulnerable to low welfare imported pig meat from other parts of the world at a considerable discount and the pig industry as a whole would have to be on their guard in case too many cheap imports entered the country by the back door, especially as the UK is only around 45% - 50% self sufficient in pig meat.