National kill estimates cut by 50,000 head per quarter Processors and retailers committed to home produced pigmeat will suffer in an even tighter market for raw material than previously predicted until at least the end of next year, according to the MLC's latest forecasts of slaughter numbers and available tonnage. Some short-term comfort can be expected from the easing of pig movement restrictions imposed in early August to combat the swine fever outbreak in East Anglia, but the MLC analysts have trimmed their national kill estimates for 2001 by 50,000 head per quarter. The new issue of their Pigs Market Outlook bulletin puts next year's slaughterings at only 12.4 million head, down from the 12.6 million predicted three months ago. Although this is only a minor percentage change, market sentiment is fragile at a time of almost unprecendented scarcity. The forecast April-June kill of 2.95 million, for instance, does not indicate a heavy drop year on year, yet this prediction will be noticed because 3 million pigs per quarter seems to be a despair threshold for the abattoir operators. The few optimists among them can feel vindicated as the projections show the third quarter as probably the bottom of the pig production cycle. "The breeding herd is thought to have finished contracting," according to the MLC economists, and their clean pig kill forecast for July-September 2001 is slightly higher than actual throughput in the corresponding period this year. However, the predicted total slaughterings in 2001 will still be nearly 2% lower than this year and 14% down from the 1999 kill tally. As overall EU pig slaughterings appear certain to decline only modestly, the processors are likely to remain trapped by the need to bid quite hard for home-produced stock while heavy imports keep the lid on their output prices. {{MEAT }}