French pig meat exports down for the fifth consecutive year
In 2017, France exported 5% less pork compared to 2016, totalling over 423,000 tonnes.
This could be, in part, a reflection of lower production levels. Eurostat figures showed that, for the year as a whole, slaughterings stood at 23 million head, 2% lower than 2016. Although France exported less for the year as a whole, more pork was exported in the final quarter of 2017, in line with the wider EU trend.
In 2016, the main destination for French pork was China. However last year Chinese import demand was driven down due to the ongoing recovery of Chinese domestic production. As a result shipments from France fell 42% on the year. Despite this, China remained a significant destination for French pig meat, occupying 11.5% of the market share in 2017. To read the latest article on the China trade situation click here. The export decline to China was partially offset by an increase to other markets, notably exports to Italy increased by 28% returning Italy to the main destination for French pork in 2017. Exports to other main markets including; UK, Greece and Belgium were all down on the year.
Pork imports to France in 2017, were up 3% on the year, to 290,000 tonnes, all of which came from other EU countries. Spain maintained its position as market leader with imports remaining steady on the year. Denmark particularly increased its trade with France, by 28%, to become the third largest importer of pig meat to France, overtaking Belgium.
Taking a focus on French pork trade with the UK, over the course of 2017 France exported 11% less pork to the UK, at 25,000 tonnes. Over recent years France has been incrementally decreasing its shipments to the UK. In contrast, while a much smaller figure, in 2017 France significantly increased its pork imports from the UK. Imports from the UK totalled 1,800 tonnes, the highest level seen since 2014. This was possibly influenced by the weak pound, which places UK pig meat more competitively on the French market.
According to figures from Eurostat the total French pig herd, as of 1 December, had increased by over 2% year-on-year, to 13 million head. The overall increase was driven by a 3% increase in finishing pigs between 20-110kg, supporting reports of production growth in recent months. With numbers of piglets also up 3%, supplies should remain ample in the short term.
The breeding herd remained stable on the year, so production growth might be expected to stabilise moving forwards. Maiden gilt numbers were up 5% compared to year earlier levels, which gives the potential for further breeding herd expansion in the future. However, with pig prices under pressure during the latter months of 2017, producers may be apprehensive about growing their herds.
Abigail Schofield, Trainee Analyst
Abigail.Schofield@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8610