It seems like no time at all since New Year, when producers were buzzing, as, for once, things were going well and looked like doing so for a useful period of time.
And there was more to cheer UK producers when the latest weekly update on world markets from American company Genesus landed in my inbox. By any standards, swine genetics specialist Genesus is a substantial international breeding company and has its eye on the ball regarding pig numbers and prices. So when its latest missive contains potentially positive news, you sit up and take notice.
According to the report, there is a huge demand from Asia, where there are no bellies in store, so the price is higher than it ever has been.
I know from my visits to Korea that belly pork, shoulder and jowl are very much on trend in their superb pork restaurants, with backs and hams being regarded as second class meat. It is quite apparent that belly pork is becoming more popular here too.
Piglet prices in the US and Canada are increasing and a 20kg piglet is now worth double what it was a year ago, at €50 per head. Apparently the demand from Spain is very high and the entire EU has a lack of piglets. Italy has the highest demand and the highest price.
So for our producers, the information in the report should provide some good news, particularly when they have been subsidising the industry for so long and so often over the years.
On matters closer to home, I still have no idea how to get a level playing field.
Prices drop, pig numbers drop, prices increase, numbers increase. It is a good job that the technology we had never thought of years ago has helped us through some extremely difficult times and, hopefully, will continue to do so.
Technology in its various forms – from genetics, and artificial insemination to feed, vaccines and medicines, housing and ventilation, leading to the decline of barrow, brush and shovel in the daily grind – has allowed our new stockmen and women to have more time to look at their stock.
Looking at stock will usually tell you if there is something wrong. I remember many years ago when I attended Askham Bryan Institute, as it was then, leaning over a gate looking at a yard full of beef cattle.
The principal was a dour Scot who was also practically minded and he asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was watching the animals and I can remember to this day his comment: “Aye lad, always use your powers of observation.”
I suppose that backs up my belief that you can usually tell if there is something wrong when you go onto a unit.
So, there does seem to be a lot more interest in bacon these days, in whatever form you can think of. I even met a vegetarian recently who admitted she found it difficult to resist a bacon sandwich!