UK production above 2017 levels
Despite reports of reasonably tight supplies, the latest Defra slaughter statistics indicate clean pig throughputs were 6% above year earlier levels in July, at 883,600 head. However, note there was one extra working day in July this year, which may account for some of the increase in throughputs; on a like-for-like basis the growth would be closer to 1%.
The overall increase was driven by slaughter in England and Northern Ireland, with Scottish throughputs declining 10% year-on-year during the month. This reflects disruption to slaughter in light of the CO2 shortage during July. Note the latest statistics release also includes a significant revision to Northern Ireland pig slaughter in December 2017 (+32,000 head), and smaller revisions for November 2017 and March 2018 (+5,000 head each).
Supplies have certainly been more ample so far this year, with over 230,000 more clean pigs slaughtered. This is thought to have been driven by some previous breeding herd expansion and improved performance. The rate of increase has slowed on average since May though, with around 80% of the increase in throughputs coming in the first four months of the year. This reflects challenging disease conditions early this year, and potentially also the recent hot weather slowing pig growth rates.
As has been the case for much of this year, sow and boar slaughterings were above year earlier levels. The 11% growth for the month, however, is slightly below the 12% increase for January-July overall. Note this year follows a year of unusually low sow throughputs in 2017, driven by herd recovery following destocking in 2016.
Carcase weights declined for both clean pigs and sows. Clean pigs averaged 82.2kg during July, the lowest weight since last July when the average was 80.0kg. With higher sow throughputs countering the falling carcase weights, the net result was that pig meat production was still 6% higher year-on-year during the month, at 75,500 tonnes. Market prices remained flat in July, suggesting that the supply availability was broadly in line with demand levels. However, with the potential for supplies to pick up in the coming weeks, it remains to be seen if demand will follow suit.
Bethan Wilkins, Analyst
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