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Moving in the right direction

Most British producers have enjoyed profits during the last two years. Lower prices in in the latter months of 2014 were offset for many producers by lower feed costs. Pig slaughterings were at a higher level in most moths of 2014 and the quantities of pig meat produced were even higher due to heavier carcase weights.

According to official figures published by the EU Commission, the UK premium over the average pig price grew to unprecedented levels in 2014. The ‘British’ price premium in 2013 was undoubtedly sustained by major retailers’ support for ‘British’, following the change in EU pig welfare legislation in January 2013 and the fall-out from ‘Horsegate’. Although there has been some hint that the retail support for ‘British’ may be lessening, there has been no apparent surge of imported pig meat to the UK market during 2014, which might have been expected. This lead BPEX to produce a paper that posed the question ‘Has the link between UK and EU pig prices been broken?’.

Other factors, possibly contributing to a new pricing dynamic, may have been currency factors and the steady growth in UK pig meat exports, which will almost certainly reach record levels in 2014. Exports had already passed the 200,000 tonne mark by the end of September, compared to just over 190,000 tonnes in 2013. BPEX published their review of the Interpig survey, collecting pig production data from a number of major pig producing countries – ‘2013 pig cost of production in selected countries’. The data allows production performance to be benchmarked among the different countries participating in the survey.

Although productivity continues to improve in the British pig herd, performance still lags behind may of the UK’s competitors in Europe. A critical pig production KPI is regarded as ‘pigs weaned per sow year’. The average for GB is just under 24 pigs, which compares with the EU average of 26 and the Danish result topping 30 pigs per sow year for the first time. The GB average includes both indoor and a large number of outdoor producers, accounting for around 40% of the total herd. The average for indoor producers was 25 pigs weaned compared to just 22 for outdoor producers.