Farming: Cold comfort for livestock producers| New chief for Potato Council

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LIVESTOCK producers saw slight price increases in the past month with cattle, hoggs and pigs all showing improvement, according to Quality Meat Scotland.

“Pig prices have seen an increase of 1.5 per cent, cattle prices an increase of 2.7 per cent and hogg prices have increased by 12 per cent,” said Stuart Ashworth, head of economic services at QMS. “These increases are welcome given the challenges producers are facing in relation to purchased feed prices and the extreme weather.”

Apart from the supply of cattle which is back on a year ago, the firmness in price is all the more remarkable as it comes despite increased volumes of stock hitting the UK market.

“UK slaughter statistics show an increase of 13 per cent in hogg slaughtering during January and February, although Scotland has a more modest 2 per cent increase in the kill,” he said, saying auction sale prices for hoggs rose after Easter, indicating general strength in the market rather than a holiday effect.

Looking abroad he said the Irish sheep trade was also seeing an upturn.

On the Continent, the price of lamb has also risen in all major European sheep producing countries although they are still lower than last year.

The great worry for UK sheep producers is the New Zealand lamb supply position where Ashworth said there had been higher export volumes during January and February but the UK had not been the main target for these exports.

Lamb exports to Europe from the UK rose 7 per cent in January compared with a year ago with modest increases in sales to France, Germany and Italy.

Ashworth reckoned the bad weather made it highly unlikely there would be an increase in the 2013 lamb crop.

New chief for Potato Council

THE Potato Council has appointed a new chairman to take over from Allan Stevenson, of Luff Mains, Aberlady, who is stepping down after five years at the helm.

Lincolnshire farmer David Piccaver, is not currently a potato grower though he lets his potato land to a neighbour on a management contract. His family business specialises in intensive vegetable production on some 2,500 acres in the Long Sutton area.

Piccaver’s first official trip north will be to the Potatoes in Practice day at the James Hutton Institute in August.