EU herd still in decline
The EU pig breeding herd declined 2% on the year in December 2016, according to latest census results published by Eurostat. This reflects the legacy of poor financial conditions experienced at the start of last year.
A number of key producing states contributed to the overall fall, including Germany and the Netherlands, which both reported their breeding herds to be back by 3%. Spain, which has the largest breeding herd in the EU, also reported a decline of 2%, although the herd still remains 2% higher than December 2014 levels. In-pig sows and gilts were back largely in line with the overall decline, with numbers down over 1% on the year. The decline in breeding pigs also translated into a smaller overall pig herd, with the EU total for December back 1% on the year.
Overall, the continuing decline of the EU breeding herd suggests that the currently tight supply situation is likely to continue in the short to mid-term. Prices are therefore expected to remain well above the lows experienced at the start of 2016. The extent of this will depend, for instance, on the strength of the export market.
However, despite the recent fall in the EU breeding herd, there are some signs that there may be pockets of growth emerging. The overall Spanish pig herd was still reported to be 3% higher year-on-year, with 2% more piglets and further expansion anticipated due to increasing numbers of covered gilts. The Polish pig herd has also recovered from the 2015 dip, expanding by 5% with both the breeding and finishing herds increasing in size.
Figures for the UK, also obtained via Eurostat, indicate a 3% expansion in its overall herd size from 2015 levels, though the breeding herd remained largely stable. The UK situation will be examined in more detail when the latest Defra statistics are released later this week.
Also, look out for a more in-depth analysis of the EU pork market in next month’s PMT.
Bethan Wilkins, Analyst
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