EU pig numbers down
The overall EU pig herd decreased to 148 million head in the year to December 2018, according to provisional figures from Eurostat. Most of this decline was due to a 4% fall in the German pig herd, alongside 7% fewer pigs in Poland. Pig numbers also fell in Denmark, but to a lesser extent.
The number of female breeding pigs declined by 360,000 head (almost 3%), with a particularly noticeable drop in in-pig gilts. Breeding sow herds in the majority of the biggest producing countries fell, with Poland recording the largest decline (-164,000 head) followed by the Netherlands (-96,000 head). Ongoing difficulties with African Swine Fever seem to have finally caught up with the Polish industry, which had nonetheless been expanding since 2015. The Netherlands also reported a marked decline in maiden gilts (-31,000 head), suggesting future numbers may be affected.
Breeding sow numbers in Spain and France increased, however, this was not enough to balance the losses elsewhere. Numbers of Spanish breeding sows increased by 46,000 head (nearly 2%), helping to boost the country’s overall pig herd by 833,000 head. Spain’s pork production has grown substantially over recent years, reflecting increased exports to China and Japan.
The number of non-breeding pigs in the EU28 also fell on the year, although to a lesser extent than the breeding herd. Numbers of pigs under 20kg fell by nearly 2%, with only numbers of heavyweight pigs (100kg and over) showing an increase. This may reflect a trend towards higher carcase weights, which could mitigate the impact of falling pig numbers.
Nonetheless, any fall in EU pork production may provide support to prices, which have been subdued of late. This could especially be the case, considering improving export demand. However, sluggish demand for pork within Europe may continue to weigh on prices somewhat if the situation does not improve.
Hannah Clarke, Trainee Analyst
Hannah.Clarke@ahdb.org.uk, 0247 693 5745