UK pig producers 'furious' at 'dismal' prices amid buoyant market

Pig producers in the UK are 'angry and frustrated' at prices offered by processors amid a buoyant market
Pig producers in the UK are 'angry and frustrated' at prices offered by processors amid a buoyant market

British pig producers are 'furious' at the 'dismal' prices currently being offered at a time when the global pork market is buoyant.

The UK's competitors are enjoying increased prices on the back of soaring Chinese demand as the world's biggest pig producer comes to grips with the African swine fever (ASF) crisis.

Following recent small increases, the EU-spec Standard Pig Price (SPP) rose by just over 1p to reach 139.84p/kg last week.

This increase represents the largest weekly rise since June last year and the highest price since the first week in January.

Nonetheless, the price is still around 6p below the price this time last year. The National Pig Association (NPA) says the increases seen in April 'pale into insignificance' in comparison to what is happening in the EU.

'Game-changer' for UK's competitors

Danish Crown, Europe's largest pork producer, recently described the surge in demand for EU pork from China as a ‘game-changer’ – the processor’s export volumes to China have doubled since February.

The latest Eurostat figures show EU fresh and frozen pork shipments to China were up by 16% (+19,600 tonnes) year-on-year in January and February, which has had a big impact on EU pork prices.

Meanwhile, the EU reference price has soared from 117p/kg in early February to nearly 146p/kg in the week ended April 22.

Most major producing countries have seen massive hikes over that period.

The China effect is being seen on prices all over the world, including the US, where prices have almost doubled since February.

UK pork exports to China were up 40% year-on-year in February – and yet the UK price is still almost exactly where it was at the start of February.

'Dismal prices'

The NPA says it has received a number of calls from concerned pig producers who want to know what is happening.

Chairman Richard Lister said the price British producers are getting is 'dismal', especially in the context of what is happening with China.

“As the EU pig price surges ahead, UK pig producers are left feeling like the modern day Oliver Twist,” he said, “faced with heavily over-stretched overdraft facilities, producers were entitled to breathe a sigh of relief at the increase in EU prices.

“Sadly, this relief has turned to anger and frustration at the scraps being offered over the last four weeks. Processors will know full well the pressures producers are under, with owning so many of their own sows, and having seen another significant independent producer disappear.”

He added: “I have had numerous producers ringing me during the last fortnight wanting to understand why we are not seeing a proper and significant recovery in their price.

“It is important producers make their feelings known to processors and marketing groups because we need a fairer share - just like Oliver Twist,” he said.

The NPA has been collecting data from members about the current market situation, which chief executive Zoe Davies said was proving to be ‘illuminating’.

The group is demanding 'rapid and significant change' from processors in the prices being paid.