UK pig sector 'frustrated' with prices as competitors see gains

The UK's competitors are seeing increased pig prices on the back of the sustained surge in Chinese imports
The UK's competitors are seeing increased pig prices on the back of the sustained surge in Chinese imports

UK pig producers are 'frustrated' with measly price increases compared to other major pig-producing countries which are riding on the back of China's ASF problem.

Farmers are 'rapidly losing patience' with the situation and are now demanding answers, according to the National Pig Association (NPA).

The group has been collecting information confidentially from members, which is shedding some light on the situation.

The latest figures from AHDB show the EU-spec SPP reached 138.67p/kg last week, up just 0.36p on the previous week. Since the start of March, the SPP has risen by 1.24p. It remains 6.6p below year earlier levels.

Analysis from AHDB points to signs of an imminent uplift in demand for UK pork, partly due to a sharp rise in EU prices making imported product less competitive in the UK.

Demand from China remains strong as it seeks to fill the huge gap in domestic production created by the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak.

AHDB attributed the ‘sluggish’ uplift in the SPP to high storage levels, which it has blamed on Brexit stockpiling, and high throughputs in previous weeks following difficulties with factory breakdowns.

A short kill week in the latest period, due to the Easter break, may have also had a negative impact on demand, it added.

Meanwhile, across the rest of the world, including many EU competitors, pig prices have soared on the back of the sustained surge in Chinese imports.

NPA chief executive, Zoe Davies highlighted how farmers are 'incredibly frustrated', saying: “At a time when they really needed support from processors, they are not getting it.

“The data on contracts we have been collecting from members is proving to be very illuminating and potentially very useful as we try to get to the bottom of what is happening here.

“The excuse that we are hearing about stockpiling is contrary to what retailers are telling us and will only hold for so long. I believe what we are looking at here is a deliberate attempt to delay the inevitable.”

Last year, Grocery Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon announced a commitment to work with industry to explore improving transparency and access to prices along the supply chain.

The aim, she said, was to help farmers and small producers see if they are getting a fair deal for their products.

Ms Davies added: “Forward quotes for imported loins are showing a 20% increase in price, so the fairy stories we are being sold just don’t add up in my view.

“I’m more than happy to be re-educated should processors feel the need to share, but what is clear is that without some very sensible explanation and soon, the GCA may well be getting a call,” she said.