Easter impacts pork production during March
This represents a decline both month-on-month and on the year, of 2% and 4%, respectively. However, it should be noted that there were fewer working days in March 2018, partly due to the earlier Easter. On a per working day basis, UK pig meat production was actually 5% higher than year earlier levels during the month; although this was still a 6% decline on February.
Driving the overall fall in production, March clean pig slaughterings declined by 3% (30,200 head) on the year, to 874,300 head. Although again, on a per working day basis, throughputs would be 6% higher than 2017 levels, but 6% below the previous month. For the individual regions, clean pig slaughterings in England and Wales declined 5% (33,000 head) year-on-year, while throughputs in Northern Ireland declined a more modest 1% (1,000 head). Conversely, Scottish slaughterings grew by 17% (4,000 head).
Carcase weights for clean pigs showed little change compared with year earlier levels, increasing by just 100g to average 83.4kg. The recent poor weather conditions may have somewhat limited carcase weight gain.
Sow and boar slaughterings remained steady month-on-month at 18,100 head, although this is a 16% year-on-year decline which somewhat limited overall pig meat production levels. Declining continental sow prices during the month, coupled with the earlier Easter, likely impacted throughputs.
Due to strong production during January and February, the decline in production in March is offset. According to Defra, total production for quarter one stands at 233,900 tonnes, 5% above year earlier levels. Slaughterings and pig meat production have been well above forecasted levels so far this year. This likely indicates that the herd has been performing better than anticipated, and the breeding herd has grown by more than the Defra census results suggested.
For more discussion surrounding the strong Q1 production figures, please watch this month’s edition of Pork Talk. The latest AHDB pork production forecast and outlook will be released next week.
Rebecca Oborne, Analyst
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