With the average UK deadweight pig price now close to 95p, breakeven for many producers, confidence is increasing inside the farm gate while unease is noticeable among buyers not accustomed to shortages. But this is prompting analysts to look much more closely at sow slaughter rates for hints of an end to herd contraction. Latest available kill figures are around 7,000 head weekly, much lower than late last year but regarded as still heavy enough to shrink production capacity further. MLC economists are sure the current price uptrend will persist for most of the year. Yet even they suspect a slight increase in the clean pig kill could occur in the final quarter. This could mean the beginning of the next cyclical price downturn just when producers are bringing on any extra capacity being installed now. {{MEAT }}