Growth in Irish pig meat exports, but pig prices remain flat
In the first four months of 2018, Ireland exported 91,000 tonnes of pig meat and offal, up 9% on the same period in 2017 to a new record level.
The value of these shipments, however, only increased 4% to €255.0 million, as average prices fell back 5% overall. Within this, export volumes of fresh/frozen product were up 3% (+1,600 tonnes), which translated into an 8% decline in value to €129.4 million. Conversely, shipments of ham increased by almost a quarter to 15,000 tonnes, which meant the export value of these products was still 14% higher year-on-year at €94.4 million. As such, processed products represented 37% of the value of Irish pig meat exports, up from 34% last year.
Growth in trade with the rest of the EU was important, with overall volumes increasing 13% (+6,000 tonnes) year-on-year. This accounted for 58% of the export market, an increase of two percentage points on the same period in 2017. In particular, this reflects a recovery in shipments to Denmark, which dipped early last year.
Exports to non-EU countries recorded more modest growth of 4% (+1,500 tonnes) in the first four months of 2018. Strong growth was recorded in shipments to Japan (+60%, 1,500 tonnes) and South Korea (+100%, 1,100 tonnes), however this was countered by falling exports to China (-11%, -2,300 tonnes). This reflects the lower demand for imports in China this year.
The overall increase in shipments was largely due to greater product availability; Irish pig slaughterings were up a substantial 8% in the first half of the year. Ireland’s domestic market is small, meaning the majority of this increase needs to be translated into export growth. However, this has been challenging given rising supplies across Europe, and the weaker dollar reducing the price competitiveness of EU exports. Hence, falling export prices were recorded.
With lower export prices, Irish pig prices seem to be struggling, and have been virtually flat since the start of February at around €139/100kg. The usual seasonal uplift has been almost entirely absent, despite the overall EU price picking up by over €10 across this period. This suggests Ireland’s pig industry may be feeling this year’s challenges more keenly than some other key EU producing states.
Bethan Wilkins, Analyst
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