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Pig price up again despite poor demand

21st Mar 2019 / By Alistair Driver

There are more tentative signs of a recovery in the pig market as the SPP recorded a second consecutive small increase last week, rising by 0.14p to average 137.77p/kg.

However, prices remain over 7.5p below last year’s levels. The price has steadied over the past fortnight, despite reportedly poor demand, as supplies have tightened, according to AHDB.

pig price march 16

Estimated weekly slaughter remained relatively stable on the week at 164,200 head, despite reports storm Gareth stalled one major plant. However, throughput was down by 4.2% (7,200 head) compared to the equivalent week in 2018. Meanwhile, carcase weights fell by almost 200g on the week to 84.98kg, the lightest weight so far this year but around half a kilo heavier than 2018.

The EU-spec APP increased by 0.7p in the week ended March 9, compensating for some of the losses in the previous two weeks, to stand at 142.89p/kg. However, prices continue to track almost 6p below the equivalent week in 2018. The gap between the APP and the SPP widened to 5.26p.

March's lower slaughter numbers continues the trend that saw clean pig slaughterings in February, at 834,200 head, down 4% on 2018. This was driven by a 6% drop in slaughter in England and Wales, as throughput in Scotland and Northern Ireland actually increased by 4% and 7% respectively.

The overall decline probably reflects poorer herd performance last year, due to disease challenges and hot summer weather from around May negatively affecting sow fertility rates, AHDB said.

Exports and imports on the up 

AHDB is also reporting that UK pork imports and exports have increased in the early part of 2019. All categories of pig meat recorded increases in export trade, while the increase in imports have been driven by fresh/frozen pork and bacon.

Total pig meat exports (excluding offal) in January were up 8.5% compared to a year earlier to total 21,500 tonnes. Fresh/frozen pork recorded the largest increase in volume terms, up 1,200 tonnes to total 18,200 tonnes.

Exports to China have recorded significant increases, up 72% to total 4,500 tonnes, as productivity in the world's biggest producer of pigs takes a hit on the back of its African swine fever outbreak. There is anecdotal evidence that this is helping to support EU pig prices.  

Offal exports in January were also up, by 18% to over 7,000 tonnes, driven by higher volumes going to China - deliveries were up by 38% to total 3,300 tonnes. 

Total pig meat imports were also up in both value and volume. Imports for January totalled 76,500 tonnes (+5%) with a value of £187.2 million (+3%).  Fresh/frozen pork and bacon categories have driven the increase, up 16% and 8% respectively, while processed hams and shoulders were down 17% (-2,200 tonnes).