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1st May 2020 / By Peter Crichton

Pig prices have been something of a curate’s egg today (good in parts) but with the sow trade being a particularly bad egg on this occasion.

UK pig prices have held up remarkably well compared with sharp falls on the EU mainland, with the SPP virtually unmoved at 164p and weekly contribution prices within a range of 155p and 163p/kg, which is where they have been anchored since early December.

Although the spot market was reported to be quiet with most pigs selling on contract, one or two deals were done in the 165p/kg region but carcass balance is becoming something of a problem with loins selling reasonably well but other parts of the pig much harder to shift.

The German bacon pig producer price has however fallen sharply losing another 5 Cents and now stands at 1.7EUR, which is equivalent to 1.49p deadweight in our money.

However, as cull sow prices often provide something of a barometer for future finished pig prices, the news that export prices for sows had fallen by a massive 16p/kg came like something of a cold shower and has hit the confidence in the market to a significant degree.

UK export cull sow bids have generally been in the 84p – 88p/kg range, although sellers with larger loads have generally been able to improve on this to some extent, but the net result is that cull sow values have fallen by approximately £36 per head over the past two weeks.

Apparently, the main reasons for the fall are large stocks of sow meat across much of Europe with cold stores full, not helped by reduced throughputs at boning and processing plants to comply with COVID19 personal distance working space which is slowing down throughout to a significant degree.

Weaner prices have eased to some extent with the latest AHDB 7kg ex farm average dropping by 19p to £42.58/ head but no quote for 30kg weaners which last week averaged £61.79/head in value.

Producers will continue to exercise caution before re-filling finishing units, keeping a watchful eye on the various forecasts for finished pig prices and feed costs in the weeks ahead.

Feed ingredient prices have remained at generally similar levels on the week, although proteins have eased to some extent with Hipro soya meal quoted at £308/t for June and £303/t for November to April 2021.

UK feed wheat traded on the futures market at £158/t for June and £163/t for September. UK spot ex farm feed wheat prices eased a touch to average £147.10/t.

Barley continues at a discount worth £133/t for June and £130/t for September.

Although UK crops are looking better than they did before the recent rains, there is still concern over lower yields as well as the potential high price of straw, which are two more negative factors to worry about.

And finally, when America sneezes we shiver but hopefully we will not experience the level of problems being faced by the US pig industry where meat processing plants have had to close due to COVID19 restrictions on working space closure over twenty large pig slaughter houses and processing plants, with many workers becoming ill or at risk.

For the time being most of the UK pig abattoirs have managed to keep on top of volumes to a significant extent and well done to them and all the workers and allied industries.

However, the UK pig industry will need all the help it can get if pig prices go into retreat, although some gestures such as postponing the submission date for BPS claims until the 15th June and Farm Assurance visits being carried out on a remote basis have helped, a slackening of any other areas of bureaucracy would be more than appreciated at a time when bank managers are also keeping a wary eye on their customers’ financial stability.

Anything else that can be done to allow producers to concentrate on pig production rather than paperwork would also be appreciated and a great help to the industry.