I’d Rather be a Hammer than a Nail

In horse-racing terms, the going is still very heavy in every sense of the word as the SPP continues its downward canter slipping by another 0.15p and now stands at 138.85p.

The situation in Germany and the other EU pig production countries is no better and still undercuts UK prices by a significant margin, with the latest German producer price remaining in doldrums quoted at a mere €1.20.

UK weekly contribution prices have in the main stood on and are still well below COP levels still within a fairly wide range from 130p/kg at the bottom of the runners and riders and 138p/kg at the top.

There is still very little spare capacity for spot bacon pigs with large numbers still looking for homes and some unfortunately being euthanised and only some regular sellers have been able to agree prices between 107p – 112p/kg and a tad more in places.

However, as previously, surplus overweight pigs remain almost impossible to sell with no prospect of any Government assistance despite the welfare problems being generated, not to mention the mental and financial stress being caused to long established and efficient welfare friendly UK pig producers.

Cull sow prices remain at rock bottom levels and further Covid problems are occurring in Germany which has put a lot of abattoir workers onto the substitutes bench.

UK cull sow values continue to bump along the bottom with most between 20p – 23p/kg, but slaughter space is limited due to the Covid related labour shortages in Germany, while at the same time the increasing value of the pound is hitting the Euro which traded today at 83.2p compared with 83.5p a week ago.

The latest AHDB 7kg ex farm weaner average is quoted at £33.78/head but there continues to be very little demand for spot weaners of all shapes and sizes due to a lack of finishing space caused by the ongoing heavy pig bottleneck and concern over finished pig values in the months ahead, although signs are continuing to point to a significant black hole in UK live pig availability as the spring approaches.

Unfortunately, cereal and protein prices are still heading north unsettled by the ongoing sabre rattling by Comrade Putin and as a result the UK feed wheat average weekly price has gone up by £10/t to £220/t and futures markets are also continuing to reflect bullish trends with February quoted at £220/t for feed wheat.

Barley prices remain at unsustainable levels for pig producers with feed barley quoted at £211/t for February delivery and £187/t for September.

Similar rising values are reflected with proteins, which saw February 2022 soya traded at £429/t and longer months June-October at £402/t. Rapemeal values are at or around £301/t for February-April, although later in the year August-October looks better value at £249/t.

And finally, at a time when UK pig producers are being hammered and nailed to the floor (both of which are extremely painful) but looking head since January 2021 the overall UK pig herd total fell by 17,000 head to 385,000, which is the lowest level since December 2014.

In addition the female pig breeding herd is down by 7% and there has also been a 14% reduction in the number of sows in pig.

Although reduced pig supplies should lead to better demand, another major problem still to be endured is the very low value of pig meat imports which are continuing to knock seven bells out of the domestic pig industry.

However, a black hole in EU pig numbers could work wonders especially if that is accompanied by the start of a price recovery, but until that occurs the future of the domestic pig industry will remain on a knife edge and as the old saying goes, ‘never catch a falling knife’.

According to industry sources prices will recover, but the question is when?

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About The Author

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