Weekly slaughter figures have dropped 20% and created a tough marketplace for the curers R etailers will continue to face growing pressure to pay more for British back rashers because supplies of British pork backs are becoming increasingly tight. "Swine fever has been taking up to 25,000 clean pigs a week out of the British kill," says British Pig Executive (BPEX) manager Mick Sloyan. He is referring to healthy animals which are held on farms in restricted movement zones in an attempt to stop the disease ­ which began in August ­ spreading. Weekly slaughter pig numbers were down to 250,000 in the year to August, representing a 10% reduction on the previous year. They have dropped by a further 10% since the outbreak began and British bacon curers now face an uphill struggle. They are in direct competition with fresh pork buyers, because they buy the same part of the pig, but because of the specific requirements of the curing process, they are limited in the grades they can buy ­ unlike fresh pork buyers. "We will be going into the end of the year with 20% fewer home-produced pigs, which would be easier for processors to carry on higher value lines," says Sloyan. Swine fever has effectively stopped British pigmeat exports to third countries and the longer the movement restrictions stay in place the more serious it will be for UK exporters," says Sloyan. "It will become increasingly difficult for them to regain lost ground with their foreign customers." The effects on processors are already being felt In addition the UK industry faces the possibility of an increase in imports to fill the 20,000-25,000 clean pigs weekly gap in UK abattoirs. MLC forecasts suggest that any rise in pig numbers will be marginal. Weekly kill figures are unlikely to go far over 290,000 in the second quarter but may be stronger in the third quarter. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}