The run of increasing pig prices has come to an end against a background of more supply and lower global prices.
In the week to August 8 the average EU-spec SPP price was 163.84p/kg, which was nearly a penny less than the week before, according to AHDB figures, although 10.83p more than the year before and more than 10 per cent up on the five-year average price.
With a large proportion of British pork sold as retail rather than foodservice, extra demand during lockdown helped push prices up.
A higher volume of slaughterings may have contributed to the decline.
July saw the largest output for the month in the last 20 years, with 86,200 tonnes of pigmeat produced, an
increase of nine per cent on the July 2019 total.
During the months, almost one million pigs were slaughtered, with the volume of clean pigs up six per cent
to 963,700 and sow and boar numbers up 21 per cent to 23,200.
The average clean pig carcase weight was 2 per cent higher than last July at 86kg.
In the first 32 weeks of 2020, 2.49 million pigs had been slaughtered, four per cent less than the same period last year.
Up until recently, British pig producers have been largely immune from the falling pig prices EU producers have endured over the last few months.
The average EU price initially saw a Covid-19 bounce as shoppers stocked up on pork products for lockdown.
Prices jumped nearly 12 per cent between the end of January and the end of March.
But then the absence of restaurant trade kicked in and values plunged by 22 per cent.
The closure of pork plants in Germany and elsewhere due to virus outbreaks disrupted the market. Prices have
stabilised in August amid signs of increased demand.
Globally, US pig prices are weak with Covid-19 still disrupting the movement of pigs to abattoirs.
The US Department of Agriculture has revised its estimates of global pig production up from previous figures, but output is still likely to be 5.5 per cent lower than in 2019 at 96 million tonnes.
Production in China has increased as it seeks to recover from coronavirus and African Swine Fever, but there is strong import demand in the country.
UK pork exports to China have been a huge success story, according to Ed Barker, senior policy adviser at the
National Pig Association and continue to show more potential.
In a series of tweets defending the quality and efficiency of the British pig industry, he said the value of UK pig exports to China is higher than the value of whisky shipments to the country and it is vital in taking cuts that are difficult to sell at home.
He added that the UK’s position of only being 54 per cent self-sufficient in pork production is not anything to do with a lack of productivity, but a result of a historic need to import pork products, a large consumer base and higher costs because of the UK’s world-leading food and welfare standards.
He said: “Standards and regulations have costs – this is key for trade deals and cheaper meat imports.”
A 2018 AHDB study found that the average cost of UK pig production was £1.47/kg deadweight.
That compared to £1.44 for the EU average, £1.25 for Denmark, £1.36 for the Netherlands and less than £0.90 in the US and Brazil.