January 2015: Greed, or desperation, keeps us hanging on

Another year dawns, which inevitably makes me wonder what 2015 will bring. Some lucky people seem to have a magic wand and get their predictions right every time; I’m not quite at that level, but I do try – which reminds me of an old school report of mine that said “he really is trying”!

At harvest time, the wheat price locally was hovering a few pounds above the £100 mark and the forecast was that it wouldn’t rise until after next harvest. Are there some traders hidden away somewhere who cause chaos in the grain market? It’s already £30 up, so they will have made another fortune.

As often happens, when things start to rise, they keep on rising for a while, and then we get greedy, or is it desperate, and hang on. Similarly, as prices drop, they too keep on dropping and again we hang on, as they can’t possibly get any lower! At least it makes life interesting, but one heck of a challenge to pig farmers trying to fix their feed prices.

Who would have thought that bird flu would arrive again? It certainly caused a lot of hassle in this area, with pig farmers not being able to move their finished pigs – and we all know what happens when they get overweight; compensation perhaps? A pig just flew past my window!

It certainly reminded us that even though we’re an island, disease will find a way, so we can’t be too careful. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were self-sufficient and didn’t have to bring in anything, not that imports caused this outbreak. It’s thought wild birds, either arriving or passing through, carried it here.

My contact in Denmark, the delightful Trina Vig Tamstorf informs me that the Danish pig industry has spent £2.75 million on a state-of-the-art disinfectant centre on the Danish/German border, through which every livestock lorry entering Denmark will have to pass. Demark exports millions of piglets to Germany and Poland (among others), and this investment has been made because the pig industry remains the country’s lifeline. We would need one of these at all our ports, but I guess if we had, there would still be one or two “entrepreneurs” who might just find a way round it.

Every pig farmer I spoke to in December mentioned the price falling about 1p/kg/week at present. It doesn’t sound much, but it’s 80p/pig and you don’t need many pigs for that penny to make a huge difference to the total received.

I wonder if retailers will ever be brave enough to pay the same pig price every week, all year round, like my local butcher, Chris Tindall in Driffield. He also pays the same price for beef all the time, and both are above market prices. In addition to paying the same price, we still need to have a fairer three-way split on the finished product.

A happy and prosperous New Year to you all, and keep the info coming!

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

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