QMS points to firmer cattle and sheep prices, but a tough pig market

Cattle and sheep prices have strengthened over recent months, but Scottish pig prices continue to struggle, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

QMS head of economics Stuart Ashworth said that, while cattle and sheep producers have seen an uplift in prices in the past couple of months, pig producers have seen farmgate prices fall by around 10p/kg deadweight (dwt) over the past 12 weeks.

Ashworth pointed to increased slaughter numbers and carcase weights, as well as competition from Europe as the reasons behind lower pig prices: “So during September pigmeat production in the UK was over 5% higher than a year ago, while the number of pigs killed only increased by 3.5%,” said Ashworth.

“Adding to this higher domestic volume is an increased pigmeat availability in mainland Europe, as a consequence of Russia excluding European pigmeat from its market.

“Furthermore, as pigmeat production in the USA recovers from the impact of the porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv) while also being excluded from Russia, Europe’s ability to find alternative markets outside Europe for its pigmeat becomes more difficult.”

Ashworth highlighted how, as more American meat is available on the domestic market, the Russian ban will inevitably result in more pigmeat on the European market, pushing down prices.

This is contrasted by the high prices being enjoyed in the sheep sector, where supply is much tighter despite UK lamb slaughterings being 5.8% higher than last year. However, September 2014 slaughterings were only 1% higher and Ashworth observed the number of Scottish lambs sold at auction was lower than 2013 levels.

“With the number of ewes slaughtered also lower than last year – despite increased lamb carcase weights – sheepmeat production has reduced compared with year-earlier levels and market prices have strengthened, rebounding to levels seen in early August,” added Ashworth.

Ashworth said cattle prices were also experiencing recovery after a difficult start to the year. This has resulted in an 8% increase in deadweight price since early August, as supplies have tightened.

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