A SHORTAGE of stock combined with a strong demand is continuing to push market prices with farmgate values of cattle, sheep and pigs all well above year earlier levels, according to Stuart Ashworth, marketing analyst at Quality Meat Scotland.
He said that, so far this year, there were limited supplies of cattle and new season lambs reaching abattoirs and slaughter numbers were down compared with last year.
“However, supplies of prime pigs for slaughter across the UK have been running ahead of last year, by around 1 per cent over the past three months, so movement in pig prices points towards firm consumer demand for pig meat products,” he said.
He then compared the situation in the UK with European markets, where prime pig prices across Europe had fallen about 3 per cent over the past month, with all the major pigmeat producing countries of Europe showing a decline.
“At current prices, European pig producers are getting market returns very similar to those of 12 months ago while UK producers are getting 10 per cent more,” he added.
“This makes imported pigmeat more competitive on the UK market but there is little evidence yet of this affecting UK producer prices.”
Over the first quarter of the year, UK exports of pigmeat and pig meat products increased by 7 per cent while imports fell 4 per cent, leaving the UK market tightly supplied.
With cattle, European prices were also showing some weakness over the past month, falling just over 1 per cent despite beef prices being around 4 per cent higher than 12 months ago.
“The main exceptions to this trend are the UK and Ireland which have shown price increases over the month,” said Ashworth
As with the pigmeat sector, the UK imported less beef over the first quarter of the year than it did last year while exports increased.
According to Ashworth, across Europe the best performing market is sheepmeat.
“Following a poor start to the year, with averages well below year earlier levels, the average European Union lamb price has climbed steadily and now stands some 6 per cent better than 12 months ago,” he said.