Pork trade within EU dampens in 2016

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The volume of pork traded between the 28 EU Member States declined in 2016, despite pork production increasing to 23.2 million tonnes.

The extent of the decline is unclear due to inconsistencies between the data from different countries but the directionality is clear. Import figures show a 2% decline in the amount traded while export figures show a greater fall of 4%. Regardless, trade in pork within the EU still accounted for almost a quarter of production.

The decline in intra-EU trade in the face of higher overall production was partly influenced by the one third growth in shipments to non-EU markets in 2016. In particular there was the sharp increase in shipments to China of 86% last year to 990,000 tonnes. At the same time, consumer demand for pig meat within the EU declined.

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The majority of the key EU exporters posted a drop in shipments to fellow member states. Germany remained the largest supplier, although volumes were back 2% compared to 2015. Conversely, Spain bucked the general trend and saw EU exports continue to increase, growing by 4% year-on-year. This reflects the 5% increase in domestic production and efforts of Spanish exporters in penetrating other EU markets.

On the import side, most key nations followed the declining trend. Italy, the largest pork importer within the EU, reported a fall of 5%. This may follow from reports of declining consumption, as well as an increase in domestic production. The UK official figures suggest an 18% increase in pork shipments from other member states during 2016, though this is likely overstated due to inflated figures for imports from Denmark (read more here).

This year, with EU production forecast to fall following previous declines in the breeding herd, supplies for export within the EU are likely to be limited. Expectations, therefore, are for there to again be less pork traded on the EU market in 2017. This could be accentuated by continuing slack consumer demand within the EU and further growth in the Chinese market. Import demand from China is now expected to grow by 20% in 2017 according to the latest forecasts from the USDA Beijing attaché. From a UK perspective, this could mean less competition from continental pork both domestically and on its markets within the EU.

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Bethan Wilkins, Analyst

bethan.wilkins@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8757