Threat to national pig herd

APRIL 18, 2008: The pig herd in Britain is declining at an alarmingrate because of the crisis in the feed price, according to the National Pig Association.

About 37,000 sows were slaughtered out in thefirst three months of the year, 40 per cent up on 2007, and there hasalso been a significant reduction in the purchase of gilt replacementsby farmers.

NPA general manager Barney Kay said the UK breedingherd had contracted by a worrying 8 per cent in the first three monthsof this year alone.

The breeding herd had already halved insize since the mid-1990s before the latest crisis to hit the industry.Last year it stood of 455,000 sows but now threatens to dip below the400,000 mark. The impact of the current contraction will start feedingthrough to the supply of pigmeat in the second half of 2008, with thefull effect felt next year, Mr Kay said.

Producer prices have been rising gradually, reaching around 116p/kg last week from 110p/kg at the start of the year.

Yetthis is still way below the average cost of production, which nowstands 145p/kg due to soaring feed costs, which have risen from about50p/kg in 2006 to 88p/kg now.

“This means that on average pigproducers are now losing about £26 on every pig they produce, whichequates to an industry loss of £200m. That is not sustainable,” Mr Kaysaid.

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Other major pig producing members states, includingDenmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, are also struggling andseeing their herds contract, too, Mr Kay said.

He highlighted thelack of availability of GM feed ingredients as a major factor but saidthe problem was being compounded as retail prices increases beingachieved on the back of NPA/BPEX ‘Pigs are Worth It’ campaign. Whileretailers had increased their prices by 30p/kg across the British porkrange since August last year, producer prices have only gone up a fewpence, he said.

“Our key focus at he moment is ensuring thatretail price increases that have already happened are passed backthrough the supply chain. The next stage is to challenge the retailersto state what exactly their purchasing policy is with regard to pigmeatbecause it is abundantly clear they don’t have one at the moment”, hesaid.