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Weekly Overview: Sow Stall Ban Disrupts EU Markets in an Unexpected Way

11 February 2013

ANALYSIS - EU pig markets are not working in the way predicted after the sow stall ban came into operation in January: pig prices have not increased - and are even falling - in the UK, where compliance with the new rules is 100 per cent and yet is a long way off self-sufficiency in pork. Where is all this pig meat coming from to meet UK demand? Under different trading circumstances, certainly, USDA is reported to have resolved trade disputes worth billions of dollars to US agriculture. Investigations are underway in Denmark into a recent sharp rise in the prevalence of MRSA in its pigs.

European pig markets are not behaving as predicted. Following the introduction of the sow stall ban in January, one would expect that producers who comply with the rules would benefit in terms of pig prices in a market where a significant proportion of the meat is non-compliant, i.e. the pigs were produced from sows still housed most of the time in stalls.

But that does not seem to be happening, based on the evidence of the last week: UK producers have suffered price cuts at the same time as it was reported that an estimated 25 per cent of EU sows are still housed in stalls.

At the most recent EU Farm Council meeting, farm ministers were given figures showing 17 out of 27 European Union countries are still not fully compliant with the partial stalls ban. One estimate puts the proportion of sows still in stalls at one in four.

Sow stalls have been prohibited in the UK since 1999 yet producers there seem to be suffering an even worse situation over prices as the result of plentiful pig meat supplies, presumably not necessarily compliant with the stall ban. There was bad news for British pig producers last week. Following signs the previous week of a possible improvement in pig meat prices, one of the top processors confounded the market last week by dropping its shout price to the tune of 3p. It now stands at 153p - down by 6p or £4.50 per pig) - compared with its value three months ago. Farmers in Scotland have hit out against the cut.

Denmark's Food Minister has charged the country's Food and Drug Administration to examine the prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) CC398, in Danish pigs after new figures revealed a doubling of the prevalence of the bacterium in Danish slaughterhouses between 2011 and 2012.

In a new analysis of the Mexican pig industry, Dr Carlos Peralta, President of Genesus Mexico, attributes its difficulties last year to high feed costs and low slaughter values - the same as the majority of the international markets.

The US Department of Agriculture has resolved dozens of export issues in 2012, freeing up an estimated $4 billion in US agricultural and forestry exports and protecting roughly 30,000 American jobs in the process.

A report from Performance.gov says that current forecasts show that the US will double its agricultural exports in 2014.

Over the past year, the USDA has been working to eliminate barriers, open new markets, secure the release of US shipments detained at foreign ports, and ensure the safe movement of agricultural products in a manner consistent with science and international standards.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock



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