September 2013 – It’s Time to link prices to the cost of production

I t does make you wonder at times if we actually have a joined-up pig industry. Towards the end of July, I was hearing that some of our processors had decided to drop their prices by 2p/kg because the price of wheat had eased! The same processors were in no hurry to put the price up when wheat prices went through the roof, but it takes 10 months from serving a sow until her progeny are slaughtered and many of the pigs approaching slaughter when the price dropped had been fed on the expensive feed.

There has been increased demand for barbecue pork, and with numbers apparently tightening from Europe, why are some processors hell bent on ruining their producers, or keeping them in a position where reinvestment to remain competitive is not worth considering. There never seems to be a price reduction at the retail end, and processors seem to make ever-increasing profits. Good for them, they’ll be able to invest and modernise still further, but where will the pigs come from if they insist on keeping producers on a knife edge?

The sooner we have a more transparent system related to the cost of production the better, but where do we start? The cost will vary from farm-to-farm; not all genetics give the same results; weather patterns in various parts of the country will have an effect; and. of course, health, can take a knock at any time, even if care is taken.

We really need a united pig industry where each sector plays its part and has a more equitable share of the proceeds. It really can’t continue with a them-and-us situation.

By the time this issue of Pig World reaches your doorstep, harvest will be well under way in most areas, but hazarding a guess as to what the outcome will be isn’t easy. Crops have been behind all year, and yes, nature has a way of catching up, but although wheat ears were again visible on June 12, it seems to be that date every year, there isn’t going to be as many of them as I would normally expect. The likelihood of a reduced yield and £30/t less than last year is not a pleasing scenario.

The oilseed rape is another story. Having drilled 45 acres of winter rape, it seemed to take ages to germinate and then it just never grew. Some 20 acres was a new variety that could be sprayed to control white radish and runch. This was duly done and worked a treat, however the crop including the conventional variety just disappeared by spring and, after much soul searching, was duly knocked-up and redrilled with spring rape.

Now some 25 acres looks OK, but the other 20 acres, although having rape that looks alright, is full of white radish and runch! The spring cultivations negated the effect of the first spray and allowed a new crop of rubbish to appear. And the wet weather meant there was nothing we could do about it.

Even at my tender age you live and learn, but in the 60 years I’ve been involved in farming, I’ve never had to knock a crop up before. It hurt!

> Yorkshire farmer Sam Walton is a former pig producer and the founding editor of Pig World.

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