Subdued demand for pork from EU consumers, plus the impact of a closed Russian market until “at least next summer” could easily mean that the current upturn in the EU breeding herd ends up being more of a blip than a turning point, according to BPEX.
Quoting figures from the May/June agricultural surveys carried out in the major EU Member States, covering over 90% of Europe’s pig herd, BPEX highlight an upturn in breeding pig numbers as the most significant key factor to emerge.
“The number of sows has increased by nearly 1% compared with June 2013,” said BPEX. “Although the list of countries conducting a June survey has changed over time, this seems to be the first rise since 2005. Certainly, the December figures for the whole EU have declined every year since 2006.
“Looking at the figures in more detail, the number of in-pig gilts was almost unchanged from last year. However, maiden gilt numbers were up 4% overall, suggesting that some producers were still looking to expand. This was particularly the case in Spain, where gilt numbers were up very sharply, hinting at particular optimism among its pig producers.”
With the EU’s four largest breeding herds, Spain, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, all recording increases in the last year, the obvious question is whether or not this marks the end of the long-term decline of the EU breeding herd.
“Not necessarily,” concluded BPEX. “The figures came after a year when higher pig prices and lower feed costs mean that profitability has been better. Most producers will have been making money, at least for part of the year. However, pig prices this summer failed to reach the high levels of the last two years and the market is now starting to fall sharply.”
While the figures suggest that EU pig meat production will rise in the short-term, therefore, the longer term picture remains unclear.
“Demand for pork from EU consumers is still subdued and the Russian market is now set to be closed to EU exporters until at least next summer,” added BPEX. “Therefore, any increase in supplies is likely to put pressure on prices. The herd numbers suggest that growth could be fairly significant, making the outlook for prices appear relatively pessimistic. If that turns out to be the case, the upturn in the EU breeding herd may end up being a blip rather than a turning point.”