Defra pig census reveals lower farmgate prices

Although UK pig prices remain some of the highest in Europe, UK pig farmgate prices are 9% lower than this time last year, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Stuart Ashworth, head of economic services at QMS, reported that despite a decrease in total pigs there were increased carcase weights and increased pig slaughterings, according to the Defra pig census, which were causing lower pig prices.

The Defra pig census, which covers 90% of the UK pig herd pig, showed a decline in the sow herd of almost 5%.

“The English census also points to a tighter supply of prime pigs in the medium term with the number of light-weight pigs currently on farm down around 8%,” said Ashworth.

“In the short term, however, there is a reported higher volume of heavy pigs on farms, which is consistent with an increase in UK pig slaughterings during August of almost 1%.

“Nevertheless, with carcase weights increasing by a greater degree, the volume of pork produced in August increased by nearly 3% on the year.”

Meanwhile, Ashworth highlighted that a “complex European pork market” and Russian import sanctions were to blame for fluctuating European pig prices.

The average European prime pig price has fallen 22% since the ban on EU imports was imposed by Russia. Although not directly impacted by the ban, Ashworth explained the effect this has had on the UK market: “The consequence is that UK prices have moved from broad parity with the European average a year ago, to a premium of around 20% today.

“This significantly changes the trade dynamic between the UK and Europe. Indeed, the average price of UK pork exports to the rest of the EU in July was down 4% compared with a year earlier, while imports averaged 2.5% cheaper. However, in euro terms, both imports and exports were more expensive.”

Ashworth also noted that European pig prices have levelled in the third quarter of 2014, when they would have usually peaked due to high exports to Russia during this period.

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