Sow numbers in England registered a 3.3% increase in the 12 months through December 2009, according to new national survey statistics issued by Defra, the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The size of the female breeding herd rose to 365,000 sows and gilts, up from 354,000 a year earlier. The breeding herd now stands at 438,000, a 4% rise from the previous December.

The total number of pigs in England increased by 1.3%, from 3.70 million in December 2008 to 3.75 million in 2009. The number of fattening pigs, or pigs for finishing, totaled 3.3 million, an increase of 1% from the previous year.

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These rises were called encouraging by industry strategy body BPEX. James Park, BPEX market intelligence senior analyst, said, “These results support the current quiet optimism within the industry.” BPEX Director Mick Sloyan added, “This points to growing confidence, as producers are now seeing a period of comparatively stable prices coupled with continuing strong consumer demand for pork and pork products.”