SOARING costs of production have been blamed for a massive fall in the number of pigs now farmed in Wales.

According to Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), the high price of feed is a central factor in the downward trend.

Although deadweight pig prices for September showed that prices achieved by producers hit 154.8p/kg – 9p higher than the same time last year – it is still below the 169p/kg cost of production.

“One of the main reasons for this is the high price of feed, which is estimated to account for up to 60% of the total figure,” says HCC’s industry information officer, John Richards.

There has been a 4% drop in pig numbers to the year ending December 2011, when the total number of pigs in Wales stood at 25,600. This is less than half the number in 2000 when there were 65,200 pigs in Wales.

Supplies from the EU to Britain remained tight through August and September, leading to a rise in British pork prices against the normal seasonal trend.

“As in July, the average carcass weight increased marginally at a time of year when weights normally increase,” added Mr Richards.

“At 77.9kg, the average carcass weight in August was fractionally higher than the July average, but 1.3kg lower than in August 2011.

This is probably as a result of producers marketing their pigs earlier than usual as they struggle to break even due to rising production costs.”

The number of pigs passing through Welsh abattoirs in August was 2,700, 14% fewer than 12 months previously, and the third consecutive month when numbers declined.

The total figure for the first eight months, at 23,100 head, is only 1% lower than for the same period in 2011.