EU pig supplies plentiful in quarter 1
The number of pigs slaughtered across the EU in the first three months of 2015 was almost 5% higher than a year earlier. At 64.7 million head, almost 3 million more pigs were killed than in the first quarter of 2014.
While the earlier Easter may have contributed to this and particularly to the 9% rise in March throughputs, it is clear that supplies were plentiful during the period. With carcase weights slightly heavier than last year, pig meat production was up by 6% during the quarter, at 5.86 million tonnes. The percentage increase in March was into double figures, although there was one more working day than in March 2014. Output during the month topped 2 million tonnes, a record figure for March. This may help to explain why the upward momentum in pig prices was not maintained in March. However, the fact that prices held up, albeit at a relatively low level, in the face of such high supplies may indicate some firming of demand.
All of the major producing member states increased production in early 2015. The most notable growth was in Spain, where throughputs were up 8% and production 12% on the back of strong herd expansion last year. Poland was one of several Eastern member states whose production was up strongly, in the Polish case by 7%, as herds have now stabilised following several years of declines and productivity is improving. Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium also recorded significant growth but French production was little changed.
Early indications are that there may have been some modest tightening of supplies in April, although the earlier Easter was probably a factor. This helped to provide some support to prices during the month.