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European pig industry 'closing down'

by 5m Editor
18 August 2007, at 8:21am

EU - An increasing number of European arable farmers are doing their sums and quitting pig finishing.

This means weaner production in Denmark and other pig-producing countries is likely to be scaled down, significantly. Some weaned pigs will have to be slaughtered because there is nowhere to market them.

The feed price crisis is hitting all countries. All processors will be on short time before the end of the year and plants will close in 2008.

Some countries have been faster at spotting what is happening than others. Danish producers are still benefiting from feed contracts made in 2006 but these are about to run out.

The pig crisis has hit hardest in Britain where foot and mouth has loaded extra costs. Producer and BPEX board member Meryl Ward has proposed a suspension of the levy and of all research work.

“There is no point in long term work if the industry is going to close,” she said.

There are reports from the continent that a group of producers are launching a pan-Europe campaign to persuade all pig producers to force a better price by taking two weeks of production out of the system by slaughtering two weeks’ worth of sow production in the first two weeks of September.

In Germany arable farmers are refusing to finish any more pigs. This will have a knock-on effect in Denmark and Holland, where producers will find they have nowhere to send their weaners.

The market for weaner pigs is collapsing across Europe. In Denmark, a 30kg weaner costs around £34 to produce, but is now worth only £20.

In England a 7kg weaners costing £24 to produce are selling for £21.

The BPEX board will hold an emergency telephone conference today. NPA is contacting pig producers on the continent with a view to organising concerted action to make consumers aware of the need for a significant increase in the price of pork.

NPA fears that by the time market forces have pushed prices up to sustainable levels it will be too late to save a significant percentage of the European pig industry.

Some British pig-keepers have already called in the valuers. The implications are that the industry will need a decade or more to recover, which will cost consumers more in the long run.

In England today the spot market for pigs was barely functioning.

"It's not so much a case of a buyers’ market as a no-buyers’ market," said independent adviser Peter Crichton. "This may sound extreme, but trading patterns throughout the country saw most contract pig buyers cut their throughput with the result that a larger number of pigs were thrown on to the spot market where there were very few takers except for regular suppliers."

He said that retail price wars and cheap imports were two key reasons for the backlog of pigs.

"The position in many European Union countries is the same, with some finishers electing to sell corn and make a guaranteed profit rather than feed it to pigs and make a loss," he added

5m Editor