Quality wins over quantity for Italian pork market
Pig meat production in Italy reached 1.1 million tonnes in the year to September, a +1.9% (21,000 t) increase year on year. However, over the same period 8.38 million pigs were slaughtered, 1.4% less than a year ago, demonstrating a growth in carcase weights.
Italy is the second largest importer of fresh/frozen pork in the world after China. Looking at all pig meat products (excluding offal), imports of pig meat were higher by nearly 5% (35,150 tonnes) in the year to September, totalling 791,000 tonnes. Within this, imports of fresh/frozen pork were higher by 5%, at 750,000 tonnes. Export volumes are less significant to the Italian market, but in the year to September, 193,400 tonnes of pig meat was shipped, down 11,500 tonnes (6%) compared with 2017.
The above production data, combined with the trade balance, suggests higher domestic consumption of pork in Italy last year. However, ISMEA analysis on Nielsen data for the year to September indicates that while spending on meat has been on the increase, volume sales of pork contracted by 0.8%. Industry reports indicate Italian producers have been increasing investment in the production of heavy pigs used for the production of protected traditional dry cured hams. Volume sales for this category have not been reported, however spending has increased, and sliced cold meats do align with the trend towards quicker meal preparation and foods with longer shelf-lives. Increasing interest in quality domestic meat has also been reported from Italian consumers; 45% of Italians apparently prefer meat coming from Italian farms, 29% choose local produce and 20% rely on PDOs and PGIs products or other certifications of origin.
An increasing focus on traditional ham production might also explain why fresh/frozen pork imports have been higher this year, as production of “standard” product falls. Indeed, reports indicate that product without protected status has been coming under increasing competition from other EU countries.
Bethan Wilkins, Analyst
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