EU live trade rebounds in 2016
Tightening supplies and high prices, of both finished pigs and weaners, boosted intra-EU live pig trade flows during 2016.
The key weaner trade was especially buoyant with the EU weaner price up 39% on a year earlier at the start of 2017. This meant that the EU live market recovered from the 2015 downturn, when the introduction of Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) regulations had led processors to favour domestically produced pigs.
Germany remained the largest importer, with numbers in 2016 up 7% on the previous year at 15.4 million head. The majority of these were weaners, for rearing and subsequent slaughter within Germany. The increase in imports was important for maintaining stable German pig meat production during 2016 given the breeding herd decline in both December 2015 and June 2016. German slaughterhouses took more imported finished pigs as well.
Imports into Poland also grew, by over 6% during 2016. Again, the majority of these pigs were weaners, although the statistics also show a sharp rise in breeding pig imports. The Polish pig breeding sector is now expanding due to the more favourable market conditions. However, in the meantime finishers had to turn to imported weaners to offset the lower domestic supply. By December 2016 the breeding herd and finished pig numbers were up on the year.
Live imports were also more in Italy and the Netherlands, again led by the strong demand for weaners.
Denmark and the Netherlands continued to be the key intra-EU suppliers. Denmark was the primary supplier for Poland, with numbers 12% higher year-on-year. It was also the second supplier to Germany, though growth on the year was a more modest 2%.
Conversely, the Netherlands was the primary German supplier, with imports 11% higher than in 2015. Just over half were weaners, with the rest being pigs for slaughter. The Netherlands was also the third supplier of pigs to Poland, however shipments were down on the year, likely due to a tightening domestic supply situation. Germany was also a key supplier of live pigs to Poland, though again shipments were unsurprisingly down due to firmer demand within Germany.
The growth in Danish live exports, up 10% in 2016, is continuing to reduce its pig meat production and export potential, including to the UK. Data from the Danish Agriculture and Food Council indicated that live exports amounted to 13.5 million head in 2016 and so now represent more than 40% of Danish output.
Bethan Wilkins, Analyst
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