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AHDB Pork Country Reports

16 January 2013

BPEX / AHDB Country Reports - Ireland January 2013BPEX / AHDB Country Reports - Ireland January 2013

While Ireland is not among the EU’s major pig producing Member States, its small population means that it is still a significant exporter of pig meat. Given its proximity to the UK, it is no surprise that it is one of the five leading suppliers of UK pork imports and it is also an important supplier of processed pig meat products to the UK. In addition, Ireland exports around 50,000 live pigs to slaughter in Northern Ireland each month.
BPEX / AHDB Country Reports

Pig Numbers

The Irish pig herd has been increasing in recent years and this trend continued in the year to June 2012. The total number of pigs increased by one per cent to 1.57 million head. There was a particularly sharp rise in the number of unweaned piglets, suggesting that recent improvements in productivity have continued.

However, the trend for the breeding herd is different, with a sharp decline in numbers of breeding females in the year to June, despite higher gilt numbers. There was a particularly sharp fall in suckling and dry sows, which were down by 19 per cent to 24,700 head. This may be partly the result of some producers culling sows in the run up to the partial ban on sow stalls from the start of next year.

Irish Pig Numbers, June

Source: Eurostat


In contrast to most EU Member States, Irish pig slaughterings have remained above year earlier levels for most of 2012. Across the first nine months of the year, throughputs were up by four per cent year on year at 2.2 million head. This follows an increase of nine per cent between 2010 and 2011. Slightly higher carcase weights meant that Irish pig meat production was up five per cent compared with the first eight months of last year at 181,000 tonnes. Provisional weekly figures suggest that supplies were tighter in October and November, with througputs slightly down on last year.

Weekly sow slaughtering figures from Bord Bia suggest that sow cullings have been running around 10 per cent higher than last year through most of 2012. This follows an increase of around eight per cent between 2010 and 2011. In part, this reflects increased replacement rates but it also suggests that some producers have been liquidating or reducing their herds.

Irish Pig Slaughterings

Source: Eurostat


About three quarters of Ireland’s pig meat production is exported. Therefore, with production rising, the amount of pig meat available for export is increasing. During the first nine months of 2012, shipments of fresh and frozen pork were up by 11 per cent compared with a year earlier. With volumes sent to other EU Member States up by just one per cent, the growth was mainly driven by non-EU markets. These were up by nearly a third largely as a result of a near tripling of shipments to China. Russia also took a significant share of Irish exports but volumes were only slightly higher.

Despite the growth in exports to China, the UK remained Ireland’s primary market, accounting for a third of exports and with year on year growth of 10 per cent. The UK also buys a significant quantity of processed pig meat products, including sausages, from Ireland.

Although it is a net exporter of pig meat, Ireland also imports some cuts, amounting to around 35,000 tonnes of pig meat annually. Imports were little changed in the first nine months of the year, despite a fall in shipments from the UK.

As well as shipping pig meat to the UK, Ireland also sends a significant number of live pigs to slaughter in Northern Ireland. This trade is not reflected in official Irish figures but data from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland show that the trade amounts to around 12,000 pigs per week.

January – September

Source: CSO Ireland, GTIS


Irish pig prices have moved steadily upwards since the start of the year. During January and February, prices were stable at around €145 per 100kg.

Prices then moved up before stabilising again around 10 euros higher from mid May to early August. Since then, prices have taken a number of further upward steps, reaching around €170 per 100kg by October. This was the highest level recorded for more than 15 years. The rise followed the trend seen elsewhere in the EU, reflecting higher prices on Ireland’s export markets, despite Irish pig supplies remaining strong.

Irish Pig Reference Prices

Source: EU Commission


With strong Irish slaughterings in the first nine months of the year and increased numbers of piglets in the latest census, throughputs look set to be much higher in 2012 as a whole than in 2011. With carcase weights little changed, pig meat production will also be up by a similar amount, around five per cent. Most of this additional production will be destined for the export market and Irish pig meat consumption is likely to be little changed from last year. Indeed, with the Irish economy still weak, consumption may actually fall slightly.

The decline in the Irish breeding herd identified in the June pig census suggests that slaughterings and production may fall back next year. The extent of the fall will depend on how the Irish industry responds to the welfare changes, including the partial ban on sow stalls, which come into force at the start of 2013. With less pig meat being produced but export demand remaining strong, domestic consumption is likely to fall further.

January 2013

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