EU pig meat demand falls again

Demand for pig meat in the EU again declined in 2016 which has not only resulted in lower consumption but also stable or even falling retail prices, according to a new analysis by AHDB. Processed products, which are generally more widely consumed than fresh pork, also showed volume reductions, albeit to a smaller degree.

The analysis is based on household panel data for all key EU consuming countries with the exception of Poland. Such data is not widely available in the public domain with only headline figures generally published. It shows that, for fresh pork in particular, slower sales are not just a feature of the UK market.

Germany is the largest pig meat market in the EU, accounting for 20% of the total. Both household volume purchases and spending in Germany were down by over three per cent. Processed products also suffered but to a smaller degree, with charcuterie down by almost 1% and ground pork and beef mixtures almost 2% lower. One in five German consumers do not eat pig meat at all for ethnic or religious reasons.

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Price deflation for fresh pork of over 5% occurred in both the UK and Spain, the latter based on data to November. For the UK, this was the result of retailers moving to everyday low prices. For processed products in Spain, the market held up better with household volume purchases only down by 1%. In the UK, processed products outperformed developments in other markets including a small rise for bacon and no change for sausages. In France, household purchases of fresh pork were down by 3% in both volume and spend despite little price inflation. Charcuterie volumes though declined only marginally, helped by a good performance for the different sausage categories. The largest decline for fresh pork by volume, of 5%, was in Italy and with some price deflation spending was down by an even greater amount.

Data from the European Commission indicate that the availability of pig meat for consumption in the EU as a whole was down nearly 3% in 2016. Clearly the exceptional export performance contributed to this fall but a more stable or even lower export volumes seem more likely in 2017. This in turn puts the focus on domestic demand if the pig sector is to enjoy another good year. However, the indicators do not seem overly positive. The year has got off to its normal slow start but some demand pick-up normally takes place in the spring though to the summer. At least though for the moment the tightening of pig supplies is supporting the EU market, including in the UK. However, is the EU pig industry doing enough to boost demand during these difficult times or are further demand declines inevitable? AHDB Pork said it was looking to address this, for instance through its Love Pork campaign.

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