Peter Crichton’s commentary for January 22, 2016

It was another difficult day for sellers across the board. It was (slightly) refreshing to hear that EU mainland prices have stayed at stand-on levels, but the UK market is continuing to suffer from too many pigs and too much weight.

The latest SPP average deadweight breaks new territory at a record 84.5kg, and tales of abattoir breakdowns abound, but it’s hardly surprising with the extra weight and number of pigs passing through the system.

With spot and contract buyers both displaying house-full signs, as a result very little true spot trading took place, but where it did regular sellers were able to achieve prices between 103p to 108p/kg, but one-off loads of spot pigs were closer to the 100p/kg region.

Cull sow prices remained at stand-on levels and, now that the euro has settled down, unfortunately there was no currency gain as far as UK sellers were concerned, with the euro trading down on Friday worth 75.32p compared with a slightly firmer 76.63p a week ago, so most export cull sow bids were in the 51p to 54p/kg range.

Reports of the first major casualties from the recent pig price crash are now starting to filter through, with herds of 1,200, 600, 350 and 300 sows all heading for the exit door. Unless we see a rapid revival in pig prices, unfortunately more could be travelling in the same direction, despite the best efforts of welfare friendly UK pig finishers and breeders who simply can’t compete with cheaper foreign imports.

One abattoir operator commented that the front end of the pig was very hard to sell but, hopefully, the pulled pork campaign may help to relieve a little of this pressure soon?

Weaner prices continue to plummet, with the latest AHDB 7kg ex-farm weaner average quoted at £30.06/head and for 30kg weaners the average has taken a significant knock and now stands at £37.93/head. In both cases spot weaner trades have been at much less money, and it’s becoming extremely difficult to find homes for Red Tractor and Freedom Food weaners, except at a discount.

Feed prices have, thankfully, remained a similar levels with the latest spot ex-farm feed wheat price quoted at £102/t and futures prices for March quoted at £109.50/t with May also showing an easier trend at £112.25/t.

Unfortunately protein prices are reflecting slightly firmer values with Brazilian soya meal ex-Liverpool showing a significant rise of £6/t to £266/t and UK rape meal was reported at £152/t.

Worries over the demand for pigmeat throughout the EU may also put further downward pressure on the animal feed markets at a time when EU pigmeat prices have hit recent lows.

Although contractions have been seen in some European country herd sizes, this has yet to have any major impact upon finished pig output levels but, no doubt, this could start to bite soon.

And finally, a further illustration of the glut of pigmeat throughout Europe has been indicated by over 70,000t already being entered into the Private Storage Aid scheme which, assuming funding can be found, may remain available until September, which means that product would not emerge from cold stores until 2017 and might take some of the pressure off what’s developing into a very serious situation.

At the same time, the European Commission continues to pressurise Russia to re-open its borders to pig products, but with Comrade Putin reported to be out of sorts with the EU as a whole, and the UK in particular, no real expectations yet of a lifting of the current import ban.

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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: