Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) is back again in the UK, causing all sorts of problems regarding movement restrictions and potential welfare problems, but is it only a shower before the real storm hits the UK and EU pig industry?
Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) is back again in the UK, causing all sorts of problems regarding movement restrictions, but is it only a shower before the real storm hits the UK and EU pig industry?
While attending a recent pig meeting in London, the dreaded news came that there was another confirmed case of FMD. We thought we were getting over the earlier outbreak relatively well, as it had been contained and confined to two cases only.
Pork from Europe
Processors had bought in pork from mainland Europe until the home production could come back, so when movement for slaughter was started again there was a surplus supply of pigmeat and slaughtering took time to catch up, so there was a backlog of finishers to get off the farm.
Some were overweight and were downgraded. The log jam went back further to the weaner, store-pig suppliers as they had accumulated a couple of weeks extra supply and were struggling to accommodate them and their market had fallen.
The culled sow market had collapsed as no exports were permitted. These are problems enough and the return of foot and mouth is another complication, which normally the pig industry would ride out.
However, the biggest problem is the dark black thunder clouds that are gathering, which is rising feed costs from the almost trebling of wheat prices to Â£180 (€266) per tonne due to the switching of grains to biofuel production. We are seeing public concerns over rising pasta prices in Italy already.
Massive shake up
Potentially, this could cause a massive shake up particularly in the UK pig industry, as we have a high cost of production and are always vulnerable to cheap imports from Europe. We have already lost 43% of our production over the previous ten years.
The additional impact of higher feed prices for those who have not bought forward is starting to bite. Those that want to get out now cannot sell their sows; weaners and growers are losing there value and are going to get harder to move on, and finishers are going to lose money until the supply meets demand across Europe, in say 12-18 months, and pork prices are forced to rise accordingly.
Will the EU consider relaxing restrictions on the import of genetically-modified maize and soya to ease the problem? The Americans seem to have survived on them.
FMD, which is bad enough for those affected, is probably a relatively minor problem in comparison with the much bigger storm of rising feed costs, which is just hitting the industry.