Sale reopens on strong note

31 May, 2006 08:45 PM
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JUST less than 500 pigs were registered and sold under Primaries agents at the return of the Midland pig sales last Wednesday.

It is five weeks since the pig selling complex closed ‹ a decision unpopular among small producers and butchers.

With pig numbers double those of the weekly sales, there were concerns that a lack of buyers would not secure strong prices.

Instead, buyers bid hard and competed like good sports and prices remained similar to those before the yard closure.

Before the sale, Primaries auctioneer Keith Taylor called for buyers to purchase stock at a fair price and value to allow for the market to continue.

And while buyers and sellers were happy to see the sale return, there was talk throughout the yards that once a month was not enough.

Primaries general manager Trevor Pedler said sales could continue fortnightly if the number of pigs offered remained high.

"If we can get 250 pigs every fortnight, it could be viable," he said.

"With 500 pigs at today's sales, it proves we have got a good response."

But Mr Pedler did attribute the big numbers to the absence of a selling centre for the five weeks.

The break between sales also contributed to a drop in quality.

Some producers had not sold stock since the previous sale, therefore presenting overweight bacon or underweight pork.

With the next sale four weeks away, other producers took the opportunity to sell their stock even though much of it was not up to scratch.

This resulted in a mixed yarding, while farmers become accustomed to the new selling routine.

Pork producer Steven Ward, Coorow, sold two pens of pigs at the Midland sale on Wednesday, reaching 150c/kg.

One pen sold for 130c/kg, which he said was a good price because the pen was too heavy to be sold as pork and too light for bacon.

Mr Ward said it was better for him to sell his smaller pigs now than having to feed them for another month, when he would probably only receive 30c/kg more.

He has been selling directly to butcher shops since the yard closure.

Mr Ward would prefer a fortnightly auction so he could sell his pigs as they became ready for sale.

Butchers say that with a monthly sale they will struggle to get a regular supply of pork.

But what was evident from the sale on Wednesday was the butchers' concern for the small producer.

They were prepared to bid longer and expressed concerns for small pig producers' survival if the saleyard closed.

Northbridge butcher Joe Terranova, Terranova Quality Butchers, said it was important to provide a selling complex for the small pig producer.

"I get lots of phonecalls from small farmers (wanting to sell their pigs) every day, but we can't please everyone," Mr Terranova said.

During the saleyard closure, Mr Terranova was buying privately to fill his weekly 500 pig quota.

He said he would prefer to see a weekly sale to secure a regular supply of pork.

Princi Smallgoods owner Michael Princi, North Perth, said while the quality was mixed, some was good.

Mr Princi buys his extra pigs from the eastern states and has been buying direct from breeders there since the saleyard closure.

"I will still support the saleyards, because it is good for the butchers and small breeders," he said.

Landmark auctioneer and former pig auctioneer Ross McMillan was casting his eye over proceedings at the Midland sale on Wednesday.

Mr McMillan said the quality was not there and the prices were generally down.

He said a lot of the quality pork would have already been sent directly to processors, as a result of the saleyard closure.

Agricultural Region MLC, Anthony Fels, said the pig industry needed to have an alternative to selling direct to the processor.

He said without the saleyards, there would be one major processor which had the capability of monopolising the market and ability to set prices.

Mr Fels said a pig selling centre was needed for small producers and those without Quality Assurance practices.

"I don't think QA should be pushed," he said.

"There is a potential for pitfalls in QA and also it is expensive for the small producer.

"For a producer with 100 sows, QA is not a viable option."

Mr Fels hopes to see the pig auction system remain open until Midland closes and an alternate selling centre built for the pig industry.

"I don't think the government can just say 'no' to more pig auctions, once Midland closes," Mr Fels said.

"The pig industry deserves to get a bit of the money from the Midland saleyard land."

Mr Fels said once the saleyard land was sold, the proceeds would be under the control of the government.

"I'm urging the government to provide some form of facility (for pig producers)," he said.

Mr Fels said it was important the new facility was in the metro area proximity, so the freight was centralised.

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