Bargain-hunting shoppers may consider pork over turkey at Christmas, with the retail price of a roasting joint down 14% in the wake of a slump in the wholesale market.
Farmgate prices have been on a downward trend all year, but this has accelerated in recent weeks, dropping a further 3% since October to their lowest for more than two years. The main factor in the decline has been increased supply in the UK market, which is up about 4% on last year.
“Although the size of the UK breeding herd is stable - or even in slight decline - production has increased and animals have been heavier,” said Stephen Howarth, market specialist manager at trade body Bpex.
UK production has been boosted by factors such as improved efficiency and feed, and also the effect of mild weather with few extremes. Pressure from low EU prices - driven down by the Russian import ban - has also contributed.
Retail prices of many pork cuts have been falling since the spring, with the average kilo price of pork at retail down 7.9% year on year from £5.31 to £4.89, according to Kantar Worldpanel data [4 w/e 9 November 2014 vs 2013]. The steepest declines have been recorded in roasting meat, with leg joints down 14.3% to £4.31 a kilo. Pork belly and mince have bucked the trend, with prices up slightly year on year.
Analysts say wholesale prices may rally a little in the run-up to Christmas before making a seasonal dip in January. Farmers will be hoping spring brings a recovery, and insiders have pointed out that prices have been particularly high in the past two years compared with previous periods.
“We are not at the stage where many farmers will be considering leaving the market” added Howarth, “but margins are tight and it is possible that if prices keep on coming down then some may leave - particularly those selling into the spot market where prices are even lower.”