German pig population back in decline

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Despite picking up slightly during 2017, the German pig herd has now declined once again.

As at 1 May this year, provisional figures estimate the total pig herd to be 26.9 million, the lowest since May 2011. The estimate is 3% down on the November 2017 population and 1% lower than year earlier levels.

The majority of the herd contraction has come from young pigs under 50kg, which are down 5% (-246,800 head) when compared to year earlier levels. This has likely been influenced by lower weaner imports this year, which were 8% (-292,000 head) lower than in 2017 between January and April, according to Statistics Germany. Weaner exports are also reported to be higher. The slaughter pig population is relatively similar to year earlier levels, however there has been a 3% decrease in the number over 110kg, (-35,800 head) when compared to May 2017.

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The declining trend shown in the breeding herd remains prominent. The total number of breeding pigs has fallen again, dropping 3% (-52,100 head) compared to year earlier levels. Declining consumption of pork, increased costs associated with environmental and animal welfare regulations, and the potential threat posed by ASF, are among the pressures being placed on German pork producers. Understandably, some producers are perhaps cautious about the future of pig production, and this is likely influencing the current declining trend. The recorded population for in-pig gilts is also down 5% (-11,000 head) on year earlier levels, indicating that producers may not be actively seeking to replace breeding stock or getting out of the sector altogether.

Following from this, when compared to a year earlier, the total number of holdings with pigs has unsurprisingly declined, by 4%, to total 22,900 farms. Meanwhile the number of holdings with breeding pigs has also reduced, by 5% to total 8,100 farms.

The decline in the breeding herd suggests that German finished pig supplies could tighten later in the year, although this will depend on how live trade develops. Denmark recorded growth in the breeding herd and overall pig population in April, and are key suppliers of weaners to Germany. It remains to be seen in which direction the pig populations of other key EU producers are moving, and therefore how supply will balance out at the overall EU level.

Tom Forshaw, Analyst

Tom.Forshaw@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8647