UK pig production up 6% whilst retail volumes decline

UK pig production up 6% whilst retail volumes decline

The latest report from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) reveals positives for pigmeat production and trade against a backdrop of lower retail volumes and rising production costs.

In the first three months of the year, production has been 6% higher than year earlier levels.

An increase in clean pig slaughter accounts for 1% of this, with the rest due to heavier carcase weights. Clean pigs were on average 4.3kg heavier in the first quarter of 2022 than the same period in 2021, and also heavier than forecast. Clean slaughter itself was about 40,000 head more than forecast.

HMRC’s trade figures for the first two months of 2022 show that the UK exported 38,000 tonnes of pig meat, up 30% compared to the same period a year ago. Imports totalled 153,000 tonnes, 61% more than a year ago.

AHDB believes that much of the annual increases will be attributed to recovery from last year’s post-Brexit lows, but also higher production, and the speed of recovery in the foodservice sector following coronavirus disruption. As forecast by AHDB in its January Pork Outlook, Chinese import demand has remained weak, and this is expected to continue.

Total pork retail volumes declined by 10% year-on-year during the 12 weeks to 17th April. Taking foodservice and retail volumes together, total pig meat sales were estimated to be down only 1.6% compared to 2021 (52 weeks to 20th March).

Although pig prices have improved, the biggest difference in the market compared to when the forecast was made in January, is the price of inputs, already high then, and further pushed up significantly by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. AHDB said that the impact on the pork sector is likely to be more pronounced than for other red meats, due to the nature of its production system.

Other areas to monitor in the coming weeks and months will be carcase weights, the backlog, feed and other input costs. AHDB added that much will depend on the quantity and quality of the homegrown cereals harvest, but also global market developments.

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