Pigs in blankets

Pigs in blankets shouldn’t cost the earth this Christmas, thanks to a drop in the price of pork over the past two months.

After reaching record highs in the summer, British pig prices have fallen for nine consecutive weeks, with the EU-spec SPP reaching 157.07p/kg in the week ending 21 October [AHDB]. This is the lowest level seen since April, although it remains 11p higher than last year.

British pig supplies are currently “ample”, AHDB says, with slaughterings up 4% year on year during the week to 21 October at 176.4 thousand head, while carcase weights were up by 1.6kg compared with levels in October 2016.

Although UK clean pig slaughterings are still trending behind 2016 levels on a quarterly basis, they look “set to pick up in the coming months” thanks to growing supplies.

In the short term, a June survey by Defra reported a 5% year- on-year uplift in the number of pigs under 20kg in England, which suggested “an uptick in supply can be expected in the latter part of the year”, says AHDB in its latest Outlook report for pork.

The UK sow herd is expected to grow slightly in 2018, it adds, pushing slaughterings up 2% year on year. This, combined with an “above average” increase in carcase weights, means pork production is forecast to increase 3% year on year to 925,000 tonnes, which would be the highest level since 1999.

Prices are also falling for European pork, with AHDB noting a “considerable” drop in the EU reference price in the four weeks ending 15 October. It dropped by €17.24/100kg to €150.40 /100kg, which is almost €9/100kg lower than this time last year.

This suggests EU supplies of live pigs are “greater than demand” AHDB says, and reflects both subdued domestic demand and reduced shipments to China from Europe.