UK pigmeat production reached a six-year high last year, according to the latest data from Defra, with output edging 1% ahead of 2015 levels.
“This meant pigmeat production surpassed beef for the second year running, a trend which had previously not been seen since 2003,” commented AHDB Pork.
“However, the annual increase was almost entirely driven by the first half of the year, as production actually fell behind year earlier levels for the latter five months of 2016.”
Clean pig slaughtering averaged 4% above year earlier levels during the first four months of 2016, in fact, with sow slaughter numbers also being very high at this time, averaging 12% above year earlier levels.
Moving into the second half of the year, however, the legacy of low prices began to have an impact on production levels, with clean pig slaughterings subsequently averaging 3% below 2015 levels. In December alone, in fact, clean pig throughput was 6% down on the year.
Average carcase weights, meanwhile, continued their long-term trend and were higher in 2016 relative to the previous year, averaging 82.2kg. Here again, weights were up throughout the year but were particularly heavy in the early months when poor prices encouraged producers to hold back their pigs.
AHDB Pork’s conclusion, based on Defra’s figures, is that, in the shorter term, previously increased sow cullings will likely continue to limit pigmeat production in 2017.
At the same time, however, it is considered that the current improved price situation compared to last year may ultimately encourage some recovery in production.