UK production growth more modest in May
The latest Defra statistics release indicates that the strong growth in UK pig meat production recorded in early 2018 abated somewhat in May.
At 77,200 tonnes, output was 2% higher than year earlier levels. At 897,900 head, the UK clean pig kill was also up by just under 2%, a much smaller increase than in previous months.
The year-on-year growth in slaughterings varied somewhat between the different parts of the UK. Scotland recorded the largest uplift (+5%), followed by Northern Ireland (+3%), while growth from England and Wales was more modest (+1%).
The latest statistics release also contains some revisions to previous clean pig slaughter figures, going back to September. Most notably, there has been a considerable downwards revision (-30,400 head) to the April figure, to 877,900 head. This means April slaughter now stands 13% ahead of year earlier levels. Although, when the earlier Easter in 2018 is taken into account, on a like for like basis throughputs would only be 2% higher during the month.
The latest figures add weight to the view that supplies have been tighter in recent weeks, compared to the first quarter of the year when throughputs were up over 3% on 2017. This was expected, following difficult winter conditions and reports of disease challenges.
As well as the relative tightening in pig numbers, carcase weights also dropped back in the latest month. The average in May was around 82.3kg, marginally lower than year earlier levels. This is in contrast to earlier in the year, when weights overall were averaging half a kilo higher.
However, the fall in production from clean pigs was partially counteracted by a rise in sow slaughter. Throughputs were up 20% year-on-year at 22,900 head. Note that historic sow slaughtering figures have been revised upwards from October onwards. In light of this, cullings have now been rising throughout 2018, having been particularly low at the start of 2017.
Bethan Wilkins, Analyst
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