Home production to slump from estimated 609,000t to 549,000t Outlook underlines tightening UK supply Supplies of home-produced pork and bacon will remain tight through next year and the overall UK market volume including imports is almost certain to shrink further, according to the MLC's latest assessment of production and trade indicators. The quarterly Pigs Market Outlook publication tells the familiar tale of contraction in the British breeding herd cutting the numbers of clean pigs available to abattoir operators, and increased shipments of product from abroad unlikely to offset the decline. A hint of good news is the outlook for cereal and protein prices. Cheaper feed might stabilise pig producers' margins, ending the downtrend in sow numbers, but there is no suggestion of pork or bacon production recovering. In the pork sector, the broad picture is of structural collapse matching that of the beef industry. UK production next year is forecast 40% down from the cyclical peak of 1998. Self sufficiency will be down from 107% to 71%. Admittedly this is not an entirely relevant measure of pork supply performance. As in the beef sector, exports of pork have traditionally been largely of meat not valued highly in the domestic market, notably sow carcases. Yet the forecast slight decline in pork exports next year, after the current post-FMD surge of sales to the Continent, is an illustration of the domestic market pressure inevitable as home production slumps from an estimated 609,000t to just 549,000t. Imports will grow from 262,000t to 305,000t but pork consumption will ease from 788,000t to 769,000t, according to the MLC. Bacon supply and consumption will change less radically, as usual. Home production is predicted to ebb from 183,000t in the current year to 173,000t in 2003, while imports will rise from 276,000t to 285,000t, providing buyers with 449,000t next year against 451,000t in 2002. {{MEAT }}