Peter Crichton’s commentary for December 23, 2014

As the year draws to a close, there were at least some sighs of relief that virtually every finished pig in the system has been accounted for, avoiding the dreaded “Christmas rollover” that can often play havoc with supplies into January and February.

After a promising start, 2014 turned out to be a disappointing year with finished pig prices in almost constant decline, which saw the DAPP start the year worth 169.93p/kg and its SPP replacement now standing at 143.50p/kg (Dec 24).

However, on the feed price front a tonne of wheat was worth £159/t ex-farm at the start of the year compared with £127/t today.

Very few pigs were traded on the spot market for next week, and those that were tended to be at stand-on levels within the 127-130p/kg range. The return of colder weather might help to sharpen up retail demand, but cheap foreign imports are still providing stiff competition.

Cull sow prices have continued in their train crash mode with quotes for next week at generally stand-on levels, although there were one or two more enquires to see what numbers were available for the week commencing 29 December, but values are still generally in the 63-65p/kg range. This compares with January 2014 cull sow average values of 102p/kg and represents a drop of almost 40p/kg; equivalent to £60 per sow – ouch!

The value of the euro has, however, done little to help pigmeat values trading today worth 78.31p compared with 82.94p at the start of the year; a reduction in value of almost 5%. This means that our pigmeat exports are worth that much less and imports are cheaper by the same amount.

Although the grain markets have remained relatively quiet due to low trading volumes due to the holiday period, this can expose the market to greater volatility should any news break during the period; if it does, we hope it will be in the pig producers’ favour.

January wheat is quoted at £134/t, with November now standing at £143.50/t, but with early projections from the USDA suggesting there will be lower US maize and wheat areas in 2015, this sector could start to display bullish characteristics.

The weaner market remains quiet with finishers still reflecting the uncertainty over finished pig values in the months ahead and the possibility of dearer feed, and the most recent AHDB ex-farm average weaner quotes are £55.36/head for 30kg and £43.33/head for 7kg.

And finally, reports that a highly virulent strain of PEDv has been identified in the Ukraine, which borders Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, should be treated with great concern.

With current political unrest and civil war conditions in parts of the Ukraine, the lack of the normal levels of veterinary and bureaucratic controls could allow this disease to spread unchecked. For all these reasons, producers should pay particular attention to biosecurity as far as pig and feed lorries are concerned, with the NPA recommending that all vehicles should be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned and only allowed to enter pig sites if it is absolutely essential. Ideally units should have stand-alone loading ramps and external perimeter feed bins.

All common sense stuff, but please take heed as there’s no satisfaction in saying “I told you so”.

> Based in Suffolk, Peter Crichton provides a wide range of valuation, auction and livestock marketing services, as well as supplying the UK pig industry with a wide range of consultancy services covering tenancy, contract advice, pig equipment and herd valuations as well as dispute resolution. For more information visit: www.petercrichton.co.uk

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