Peter Crichton’s commentary for December 27, 2013

Although 13 is believed to be an unlucky number, 2013 has turned out to be a better year than expected mainly due to a hat-trick of significant events.

The first was a return to realism as far as feed prices are concerned as wheat started the year costing £200/t compared with ex-farm prices of about £155/t today.

The second bonus was the uproar caused by the Horsegate Scandal, which led to retailers and caterers being much more selective over where their meat was sourced from following evidence that some burgers and other manufactured products contained horsemeat.

The third factor has been the effectiveness of isometric testing which allows a DNA type procedure to establish not just which country, but sometimes the regional or local source, of pigmeat to avoid finding horses posing as UK pigs.

Although pig prices have tended to ease over the past two weeks, the DAPP remains at 171.32p which represents a rise of almost 11p/kg (£8/pig) when compared with early January 2013.

Tulip’s latest weekly price stood on at 167p up from 159p (at the start of the year) and Gills have maintained its current weekly price of 172p.

Although we’re just emerging from a short slaughtering week, with another one to follow, most pigs seem to have found homes and spot bacon was traded at around the 168p/kg mark.

Cull sow prices have however had much more of a rollercoaster year and are currently trading at about 100p/kg, which (like a roller coaster) is where they started.

However, during the course of the year we have seen prices as low as 95p/kg and as high as 130p/kg, but the flood of EU mainland sows expected at the start of 2013 following announcement of the European Partial Stall and Tether Ban failed to materialise. 

Weaner prices have also reflected the much more buoyant nature of the market, and in particular sharp falls in the cost of feed with the latest AHDB 30kg ex-farm weaner average quoted at £55.36/head, but significant premiums are still available for Freedom Food-standard weaners, especially in large lots.

Feed prices have remained at similar levels during the past few weeks with January wheat quoted at £164/t and July trading at £169.75/t.

According to the latest BPEX figures, December COP levels are estimated at 146.6p/kg, which are 22p/kg lower than a year ago and should make better reading as far as some bank statements are concerned. However, a cumulative deficit of more than £95 million has built up during the past three years and it will take until the middle of 2014 for producers to be back in the black.

In school report terms, although the industry is in a healthier situation than at the start of the year, it’s still a case of “could do better”.

And finally, a Happy New Year to you! Hopefully my crystal balls are in a positive mode as 2014 approaches and a glance at my Chinese calendar reveals that we’re hedaing into the year of the Horse, but the next year of the Pig doesn’t occur until 2019.

> Suffolk-based 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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