Scottish pig prices see steady summer increase

Scottish pig producers are benefiting from a slow and persistent rise in farmgate prices which have climbed 10% since the beginning of April. According to the latest analysis by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), prices currently stand 8% above last year.

However, while this is positive for the pig sector, and is in sharp contrast to the year-on-year declines for prime cattle (down 12%) and prime lambs (down 6%), it still masks some significant challenges.

Stuart Ashworth, QMS director of economic services, said: “When considered in euros, the current GB pig price is down 0.5%; a sharp contrast to the average prime pig price received by European pig producers, which is up 23.5% on a year ago.

Having had one of the highest producer prices across Europe, well ahead of the major pig producing nations, like Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and France, all of these – with the exception of the Netherlands – are currently seeing producer prices higher than in the UK.

“This change in balance in prices will make the UK a less attractive export destination for these producers,” he added.

Across Europe, the movement in producer prices for pigs is substantially different from that for beef and lamb.

“The European Commission reports the average price for prime steers across Europe to be down 9.5%, although this is heavily impacted by the high proportion of UK steers in this average,” said Ashworth.

“Nonetheless, the combined EU average steer and young bull price is 6% lower than a year ago while prime heifers are just over 5% lower than last year and cows 4% lower.

“Similarly, the European Commission report prime lamb prices, on average across Europe, are currently 9.5% lower year-on-year,” he added.

The outbreak of African Swine fever in Asia has clearly created extra trade in pigmeat and in the first four months of 2019. The European Union increased exports to China by 37%, while supplies to Vietnam increased by 75%.

According to Ashworth, total exports outside of the EU by EU member states increased by around 175,000t in this period.

With the quantity of pigmeat produced in the EU marginally down over this period, this growth in export opportunity has helped to underpin European prices. The UK has also benefited from a similar level of growth in its exports to China and Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, over the first half of the year, the UK slaughtered 3% fewer prime pigs but because of higher carcase weights, produced 1% more meat.

The growth in exports to Asia is therefore welcome in balancing the home market where retail demand is still a challenge.