By Matt Donald, pig & poultry producer, North Yorkshire
The recent falls in wheat price are welcome; it certainly eases cost of production. However, I don’t know any farmers who are buying all their feed at spot prices, so it would be unfair for processors to use these drops as an excuse to pull down the price of poultry meat, especially given the fact the government does not seem to be moving on helping farms with energy costs after April.
The pig side of our business has seen a great boost in prices, mainly due to the shortage of pig meat. There are 15% fewer sows in the UK now than eighteen months ago, largely thanks to very unfair pricing throughout the past year following the previous winter’s backlog. This had a great impact on the sector. Pigs are renowned for being boom and bust; I only hope the peaks and troughs are not as erratic over the coming years. The volatility provides opportunity, but risks are far greater.
The pig meat supply in the UK is forecast to drop 15% this year, and surely this provides an opening for an increase in demand of poultry meat. What is unique this time is that pig production throughout Europe is in decline due to costs and environmental pressure. As people try to look after the money in their pocket, chicken should look a good substitute to pork.
Our recent breeder flock is almost at peak production at 28 weeks of age, but we have unfortunately seen a higher level of egg peritonitis than normal. Hopefully the worst of this is behind us and there is still plenty of potential in the flock. As we keep breeders until 60 weeks, it is a marathon and not a sprint when it comes to achieving top performance, and who knows what the market will be doing by the end of the year.