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AHDB Pig Market Weekly

04 April 2013

AHDB Pig Market Weekly - 4 April 2013AHDB Pig Market Weekly - 4 April 2013

According to the latest figures published by USDA, pig numbers on 1 March totalled 65.9 million head. This was 1% up on the year but 1% down since the previous quarter (a fall is normal at this time of year).


This increase was mainly a result of a 2% rise in the number of pigs being raised for slaughter. While there were small increases in all weight bands, pig numbers in the heaviest band recorded the biggest increase. However, there were 1% fewer pigs available for slaughter compared with 1 December 2012. The breeding herd was only marginally up on the year at 5.83 million head.

At 29.0 million head, the pig crop during the December 2012 to February 2013 quarter was up 2% compared with the same period a year earlier. Sows farrowing during the quarter totalled 2.88 million head, up 1% year on year. This was slightly higher than the intended farrowings figure published previously. The number of pigs per litter, at 10.08, was the highest ever recorded for this quarter but lower than the previous three quarters. Intended farrowings for the March to May quarter are 1% lower than the actual farrowings during the same period in 2012. Similarly, intentions for the summer quarter are marginally lower than in 2012 and almost 2% down on the latest figures reported.

UK pig price

Despite some plants operating a short week due to the Easter holidays, the EU-spec DAPP for week ended 30 March increased to 158.21p per kg. This remains more than 15p above the price from a year earlier. The short week was also reflected in lower slaughterings, with throughputs estimated to be around 20,000 down on the previous week. As a result of this, cumulative slaughterings for the first quarter of 2013 are seen to be virtually unchanged from the same period last year. The week also saw a sharp fall in the average carcase weight, perhaps the first real sign of the seasonal fall which normally begins at the start of March.

Cull sow prices rose again in the week ended 23 March, to 107.40p per kg. This was a smaller change than in most recent weeks, indicating some slowdown in the price movements. This is partly a result of a stable EU sow market but has not been helped by some strengthening of the pound against the euro. The annual difference was 14p below last year’s level for the same week.

The weaner market edged up again for the week ending 6 April, reaching £48.79 per head. The stronger DAPP has continued to keep weaner prices higher than the last two years. However, for the same period in 2010, the average weaner price was much higher at £53.51 per head as ongoing high feed prices have constrained prices. The latest quote for an average 30kg weaner is 50p up on the week but nearly £3 per head higher than a year earlier.

Pork trade within EU subdued in 2012

The volume of pork traded between EU Member States amounts to over 5 million tonnes annually, far more than is shipped to non-EU markets. However, in 2012, volumes were around 5% lower than the previous year as supplies tightened in some key exporters, notably Denmark and the Netherlands. About 85% of shipments originate from just six Member States, with Ireland the only other Member State which exports more to the rest of the EU than it imports. Germany is the largest exporter to other EU Member States but last year it was also the leading importer of EU pork, reflecting its key position in the market.

In contrast, 20 Member States were net importers of pork from elsewhere in the EU. Italy, Poland, the UK, the Czech Republic, Greece and Romania all imported at least 100,000 tonnes more than they exported in 2012. Several smaller Member States import significant quantities of pork while exporting only very small amounts. Ten EU countries recorded increased imports in 2012, mostly as a result of higher demand following sharp falls in domestic production.

Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany were the three leading exporters of cured pork products, with the UK the main market for all three. Italy and Spain were also significant exporters, mainly of speciality hams, with France and Germany the two leading markets.

EU weaner prices remain firm

EU weaner prices have remained firm so far in 2013, although they have been running only marginally above year earlier levels. Prices have followed the normal seasonal trend, increasing in the first two months of the year in anticipation of rising finished pig prices during the spring and summer. During March average EU weaner prices began to stabilise at around €52 per head, fractionally higher than prices last spring. The firm prices reflect a tightening supply of piglets, given the reduced EU breeding herd.

Weaner prices have been particularly firm in southern Member States. For example, since the start of the year the Spanish price has been slightly ahead of the EU average; last year it averaged over €4 below the average. In contrast, prices in northern Europe have been more subdued, with the German quote recently around 5% lower than a year before. Dutch, Danish and Polish prices have also been at or below 2012 levels in recent weeks. With supplies still not plentiful, this suggests some easing of demand from finishers in the face of ongoing high feed costs and sluggish slaughter pig prices.

Feed market update

UK feed wheat futures fell below £200 per tonne again over the last week, following global maize futures lower. USDA’s latest stocks report showed maize stocks higher than expected, although down on a year earlier, suggesting more demand rationing than anticipated. However, in the UK the poor weather has increased estimated use of cereals for animal feed, leading to higher forecasts for maize imports. Soyabean prices also fell in response to the USDA report, although there are still concerns about Brazil’s ability to export its record crop.

To read more about the latest developments in the feed market click here.

Italian imports suffered in 2012

The Italian market is a net importer of pig meat but in 2012 the country imported 6% less pork compared with the year before. This was partly a result of a small increase in domestic production but the economic situation was the main driving factor, pulling down consumer demand. Shipments from the main supplier, Germany, were down 11% during 2012, with lower production also contributing to the fall. This was also a factor in 5% and 12% less product being sourced from the Dutch and the Danes. The French market also supplied 11% less pork to Italy. In contrast, increased availability meant that the Spanish increased shipments by 8%. Despite the lower volumes, higher prices meant that the total value of the imports was up by a small amount, reaching €1.88bn.

The pork export trade was also weak last year with an overall reduction of 8%. Shipments to Germany came down but exports to France and Austria increased on the back of some decline in the average export price for Italian pork shipped to these markets. Shipments to Hong Kong, the main non-EU market, were reduced by 11%. In contrast, ham exports were slightly higher than in 2011 at 64,000 tonnes, with increased shipments to Germany offsetting declining volumes sent to the other key market, France.

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