Weekly slaughter rates plunging to 230,000 head in the past month have taken the pig processing industry into almost uncharted territory. Even the kill tallies of around 270,000 a year ago were unusually low, but many traders have never before seen the present small numbers. Although the chart exaggerates the late 1999 downtrend (because last December was only a four week statistical month, against five a year earlier)the more recent figures are thought to be accurate in indicating clean pig slaughterings almost a quarter lower than in early summer 1998. The declining sow cull offers no encouragement, because it has not yet slipped far enough to prove breeding herd contraction has stopped. This is line with MLC's latest forecasts, suggesting the UK industry cannot begin a worthwhile production increase until well into next year at the earliest. {{MEAT }}