In contrast to beef and sheep prices which have been affected by the chaos in the domestic market as a result of Covid-19, pig values have remained relatively stable and are likely to remain so for most of 2020.

Pig prices have been resolute since December, with the values ranging between 161p and 164p per deadweight kg, with that latter price being some 0.37p up on the week and 0.27p above the five-year average.

This come despite the fact that there remains on-going health concerns relating to processed food – and it has been increased sales of bacon and sausages that have helped boost demand in recent weeks.

“I am pleasantly surprised at how resilient pig prices have been with values either standing on, or rising slightly week on week, which is an amazing achievement when you consider what is happening in other sectors,” Andy McGowan, chief executive of Scottish Pig Producers, told The Scottish Farmer.

“The loss of the food service market and fast food outlets is a serious loss to the UK pig industry when it sold a lot of pork belly meat but we saw increased sales of sausage meat and bacon which in the past had not performed as well, when people were stockpiling their freezers.

“Loin chops and roasting joints have also sold better than expected as they freeze better than some of the more expensive cuts of beef,” added Mr McGowan.

China also remained a key market, although the logistics of exporting to there when the corona virus first exploded, were difficult due to the shortage of dock workers and other transport and shipping difficulties.

“Initially, there were a few issues exporting to China in January, February, when the Chinese were in lockdown, and while these have not been completely resolved, they are getting better and are definitely helping trade in the UK. We are also going into the second quarter of the year when pig numbers tighten, which always helps support prices.”

While the UK is no way self sufficient in pigmeat, some 10-20% of home produce is exported, of which most is fifth quarter to China and other parts of Asia, including Vietnam and South Korea – markets Mr McGowan believed could improve as African swine fever spreads.

Closer to home, however, the worry is the disease, which is already in western Poland, could cross the Oder (Odra) and Lusatian Neisse (Nysa) rivers, into Germany, thereby hitting trade in Europe which, in turn, could affect UK prices.

“Pig prices are pretty healthy at present and productivity is better than it has been in recent years, so there is a positive margin for most producers although there is a bit of volatility in the feed markets. If the weather stays good, we can also hope for increased sales as more people look to have barbecues at home.

“Compared to other sectors, the industry has very little to complain about as pigs are doing remarkably well, considering,” concluded Mr McGowan.

Latest industry figures for the week ending April 11, show the EU-spec APP continued to gain, averaging 166.44p. With the SPP moving in the opposite direction in the same week, the gap between the two measures widened to 2.81p – the largest gap between the two since July last year.

Weaner markets moved in opposing directions in the week ending April 18, with 7kg entries down 70p, at £42.77 per head, while 30g sorts moved up by almost £3 to average £61.75.