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AHDB Pork Country Reports

28 November 2012

BPEX / AHDB Country Report - FranceBPEX / AHDB Country Report - France

France is the third largest producer of pig meat in Europe after Germany and Spain. Although it is largely self-sufficient in pig meat, it is still a significant importer and exporter.
BPEX / AHDB Country Reports

This, along with the size of its pig meat market, means that it has a significant impact on market conditions in other Member States. In 2011, France was the sixth largest supplier of pork to the UK but lower shipments from other suppliers in 2012 mean that it is now the fourth largest, accounting for 11 per cent of pork imported into the UK.

Pig Numbers

According to the latest pig census, the size of the French pig herd continued to decline, with the total number of pigs falling by just over one per cent between May 2011 and May 2012. This is broadly in line with the recent trend, which has led to an eight per cent decline over the last five years. The number of piglets fell by a similar proportion but numbers of weaners and fattening pigs were little changed from a year earlier as previous declines in the breeding herd have been offset by productivity improvements.

French Pig Numbers, May

Source: SSP, Eurostat

The fall in the size of the breeding herd was more marked, with numbers down by three per cent year on year. This is the sharpest fall recorded since 2008 but continues the long-term decline in the French sow herd. Despite the overall decline, the number of gilts for breeding was higher than a year earlier, with in-pig gilts up five per cent. This suggests a slowing of the decline in the future, although these figures pre-date the recent sharp rise in feed prices.


During the first six months of 2012, French pig slaughterings were just over one per cent lower than a year earlier at 12.1 million head. Throughputs in the first two months of the year were up three per cent year on year. Over the following four months, numbers were down by four per cent. Slightly heavier carcase weights meant that pig meat production was down by a little under one per cent at 985,000 tonnes.

French Pig Slaughterings

Source: SSP, Eurostat


In the first half of 2012, French exports of pork were marginally lower than in the same period of 2011, in line with the trend in production. Given tight supplies elsewhere in the EU, shipments to other Member States were up by four per cent. Most of the largest markets took lower quantities of French pork so the increase was due to diversification into markets which have traditionally only taken small quantities of French product. These included Germany and the Benelux countries as well as several Member States in Eastern Europe.

January - June

Source: Statistics DNSCE, GTIS

Pork shipments to non-EU markets declined by 13 per cent, mainly due to reduced exports to Russia, partly due to traders delaying shipments to take advantage of lower tariffs following Russia’s entry to the WTO in August. South Korea and the Philippines also took less French pork. The main growth market was China, although exports were only up by 19 per cent.

French pork imports were also little changed, being only three per cent higher than in the first half of last year. Shipments from Spain increased by ten per cent, as production there increased, and now account for almost three quarters of French pork imports.

There were no major changes in trade in other pig meat products either. Pig offal exports were two per cent lower than in 2011 at 56,000 tonnes despite a two per cent rise in shipments to China, the largest market. Both imports and exports of live pigs were lower than a year earlier. During the six months, France exported 314,000 head, most of which were slaughter pigs destined for Belgium or Germany. This trade was down by six per cent while overall live pig exports were down by eight per cent. Live imports were 11 per cent lower than a year earlier at 115,000 head. However, weaner imports, mainly from Spain, rose by four per cent to 50,000 head.


In contrast to most other red meats, French consumers purchased more fresh pork in 2012 up to 5 August than a year earlier, according to data from Kantar Worldpanel. The one per cent increase came despite prices which were four per cent higher year on year. Purchases of charcuterie products were also higher, up by two per cent, led by cheaper products such as bacon and some sausages. However, purchases of processed pig meat products were three per cent lower than in 2011.


Through most of 2012, French pig reference prices have remained above last year’s levels. After falling early in the New Year, prices recovered rapidly, following developments elsewhere in Europe. They reached a peak of €167 per 100kg in early March, the highest level recorded in more than a decade. Prices at this level were much higher than elsewhere in the EU and could not be sustained so they fell back during the spring. However, tightening supplies have pushed prices higher again since late May, helped by a strong demand for ham and improving weather increasing demand for barbecue products. By the end of August, the reference price had reached €174 per 100kg, the highest level since June 2001. Land prices have risen further since then.

French weaner prices have remained above 2011 levels through virtually all of 2012. They rose steadily during the early part of the year to reach a peak of €41 per head in early April, the highest level for more than five years. Since then prices have fallen back steadily due to a combination of seasonal factors and high feed prices. By late August, the average price had fallen to just €25.80 per head, although this was still nearly three euros higher than a year earlier. They have since recovered some of the lost ground.

French Pig Reference Prices

Source: EU Commission


So far this year, French pig slaughterings have been slightly lower than in the first half of 2011, with pig production also lower, despite slightly higher carcase weights. Census figures suggest that this modest decline is likely to continue through the remainder of the year, particularly in the fourth quarter. As a result, both slaughterings and production for the year as a whole are likely to be around one per cent lower than in 2011.

With lower supplies available, export levels are expected to remain slightly below last year’s level while, for the whole year, imports may be little changed from 2011 as supplies tighten elsewhere in Europe. This means that the quantity of pig meat available for consumption in France would also be around one per cent lower than last year. This is broadly in line with data for the year to date which show little change in pig meat purchases, with some switching towards cheaper products.

Looking further ahead, the decline in sow numbers recorded in the latest census suggest a further fall in slaughterings and production in the early part of 2013, even allowing for some improvement in productivity. This may be accelerated by the current high feed prices and by the introduction of new welfare regulations from the start of the year. Latest evidence suggests that many French pig breeders are yet to convert to group housing and there may be significant levels of non-compliance. This could impact on production later in 2013, and beyond, and may also hit France’s ability to export pig meat. This would imply a smaller fall in French pig meat consumption.

French Pig Meat Production and Consumption Forecasts

November 2012

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