International trade has driven significant price rises for pig producers, with prices their strongest since 2014.
Scottish pig prices rose by 38 per cent year-on-year for March, boosted by increased demand, tighter supplies and the exchange rate, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
Stuart Ashworth, head of economic services, QMS, said: “Globally, there has been significant growth in international trade and particularly in trade in the Asian region.”
EU exports to China during 2016 grew by 63 per cent and shipments to Japan and South Korea also grew.
“The UK has also benefited from this growth in Asian demand which has seen exports grow by one-third to make up one-quarter of all UK pigmeat exports.
“This increased Chinese trade is in frozen product which has helped to run down frozen stocks, tightening supply further.”
China, Japan and South Korea are all expected to import more pigmeat in 2017, but growth in US and Brazilian production could cool pig prices.
Lower production in the UK and the EU has also helped to support prices. But Mr Ashworth expected production would grow in the UK later in the year due to the number of young pigs on-farm.
In the UK, pork demand continued to be ‘challenging’, with a decline of one per cent in high street sales of fresh pork in the past quarter year-on-year, according to data from Kantar Worldpanel.
“However, overall use of pigmeat is increasing,” he added.
In the final quarter of 2016 the total volume of pigmeat available to the UK market increased by 6.5 per cent and while some of this may have resulted in increased stocks, it does suggest greater use of pigmeat in delicatessen and processed products and out-of-home eating.”
Bacon rolls, sausages and ham sandwiches remained popular as did pork-based ready meals. These pigmeat-based added-value products remain important contributors to the strength of farm gate prices.