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AHDB Pork Country Reports

17 January 2013

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

Italy is the largest net importer of pig meat in the EU and, as a result, is a key market for many exporting Member States. It is also the sixth largest pig meat producer in Europe, partly because its pigs are finished to much heavier weights than elsewhere. The size of its population and consumer preference for pig meat makes it the third largest consumer of pig meat in the EU after Germany and Spain. Although its exports are limited, they do include speciality products such as Parma Ham.
BPEX / AHDB Country Reports

Pig Numbers

According to the latest pig census, the overall Italian pig herd was little changed between May 2011 and May 2012 at 9.3 million head. However, there was a sharp decline in the breeding herd, with sow numbers down by 13 per cent over the year, following an eight per cent decline the previous year.

There were significant movements in different categories of pigs being raised for slaughter but this may be down to changes in classification since the overall total of such pigs was up by just one per cent. Numbers have been boosted by somewhat higher weaner imports, which have helped to offset the declining breeding herd. Improved productivity and slightly heavier carcase weights have also contributed to the increase.

Italian Pig Numbers, May

Source: Eurostat


Italian pig slaughterings in the first five months of 2012 were four per cent higher than in the same period of 2011. However, supplies began to tighten from June onwards, with throughputs in the next three months down by three per cent. This was partly due to hot weather which reduced growth rates so pigs were slower coming to slaughter. This meant that the total for the first eight months was up by just under two per cent at 8.4 million head. Heavier carcase weights meant that pig meat production was up by over two per cent at 1.1 million tonnes.

Italian Pig Slaughterings

Source: Eurostat


Italy is the largest net importer of pig meat in the EU. During the first eight months of 2012, it imported six per cent less fresh and frozen pork than during the same period last year; shipments during the period totalled 605,000 tonnes. Reduced production across most Member States contributed to the lower shipments, with the difficult economic situation in Italy also weakening demand somewhat. The only major supplier which sent more pork to Italy was Spain, which had increased supplies due to a rise in slaughterings. Its shipments rose by more than a quarter.

Italy is also a significant importer of live pigs, with shipments up by one per cent to 726,000 head in the first eight months of 2012. Weaners made up threequarters of the total and numbers were up by nine per cent, partly compensating for lower numbers from Italian breeders due to the decline in the breeding herd. The growth was largely due to increased shipments from Denmark. Slaughter pig imports were down 15 per cent to 166,000 head.

January – August

Source: Istat, GTIS


Italian pig reference prices tend to be among the highest in the EU. This partly reflects the much higher carcase weights which are typical in Italy, meaning that fewer pigs fall in the range for the reference price and that production costs are higher than elsewhere in the EU. With supplies plentiful in the early part of the year, prices eased back and briefly fell below their level a year earlier during May, reaching a low point of just over €160 per 100kg. However, as supplies tightened over the summer, prices began to increase rapidly. This increase began about a month earlier than in the rest of Europe and resulted in prices increasing by nearly a third to peak at almost €220 per 100kg in mid October. Prices have since fallen back to reach just under €200 in late November.

Italian weaner prices have remained well above year earlier levels throughout 2012. Prices peaked at around €73 per head in April before falling back rapidly to reach a low point of fractionally under €60 in September.

Italian Pig Reference Prices

Source: EU Commission

This was partly a seasonal development but the fall was sharper than normal as a result of higher feed prices. Nevertheless, average prices remained over six euros higher than in the equivalent period last year. Prices have since recovered some of the lost ground, reaching around €65 per head in late November.


Despite increased slaughterings in the early months of 2012, tightening supplies are likely to mean that throughputs for the year as a whole are likely to be little changed. The modest increase in carcase weights earlier in the year may not be sustained due to slow growth weights over the summer. Therefore, pig meat production for the full year may be only marginally up on last year’s level. Despite this, higher prices and economic difficulties are likely to constrain consumer demand, leading to lower consumption of pig meat.

Given the further decline in the breeding herd recorded by the census, improved productivity and higher weaner imports are unlikely to be sufficient to prevent a decline in slaughterings in 2013. High feed prices may prevent any further increase in carcase weights, so the production decline should be in line with the fall in slaughterings. Consumer demand is likely to remain subdued, with ongoing economic problems and prices set to remain high. Therefore, the fall in production is unlikely to lead to any increase in pig meat imports.

Italian Pig Meat Production and Consumption Forecasts

January 2013

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