How coronavirus is impacting EU pork exports

As a significant volume of pork consumed in the UK is imported, new research from AHDB has rounded up information about the impact coronavirus is having in some of the key EU countries which supply pork meat the UK and its implications.

Germany

As the largest EU producer, trader and consumer of pig meat, Germany supplies approximately 12% of UK pig meat. British sows are still permitted to be exported to the country.

As a precaution, temporary border checks on its land borders have been imposed as of 16 March. Whilst restaurants have been forced to close for social distancing measures, restaurants are still able to offer takeaway and delivery services.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that the slaughter pig market has stabilised relatively quickly following two price drops and that demand has calmed down somewhat after significant demand increases. Shipments of frozen pork to China are increase slowly, slaughter continues at a high level in a bid to replenish frozen stocks.

Denmark

Denmark, which supplies approximately 14% of UK pig meat, closed its borders to foreign nationals as of 14 March and is set to remain closed until 13 April.

Anecdotal evidence suggest there are some logistical issues with exports, particularly to China, and delays are expected. Overall demand for pork is being held up in spite of a drop in demand from food service as restaurants remain closed.

Slaughtering of pigs in Denmark continues to follow national forecasts, with no panic deliveries. Slaughtering was steady in the first quarter compared to last year, and is expected to be higher than last year from the second quarter. Overall there has been apparently little disruption.

Ireland

Whilst the country, which supplies 7% of UK pig meat and receives 16% of UK pig meat exports, faces similar pressure from a falling demand from restaurants and the food service industry, there has been little disruption.

With that said, more than half the weekly pig slaughter takes place in only two sites, if either plant goes down in the coming weeks, it would have significant ramifications for pig farmers and secondary pork processors, which supply rashers, sausages and other pork cuts direct to supermarkets in Ireland and the UK.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands, which supplies approximately 11% of UK pig meat, is a key re-export destination and also a net pig meat exporter.

Reports indicate that slaughter lines have been slowed where social distancing rules are unable to be followed. The country also faces a decline in demand from the food-service industry, but retail sales have seen a massive increase.

Exports are still moving, but production has reportedly faced challenges as 10-15% of workers have been absent, resulting in a slow down in the speed of slaughtering.

Spain

Spain, which supplies approximately 4% of UK pig meat is a significant EU producer and global exporter, declared a state of emergency on 14 March, enforcing movement restrictions, a lock down throughout the country, and border restrictions.

Anecdotal reports indicate that supply and demand are relatively well balanced, with no drastic cuts, but has seen a lack of empty meat containers from China, with Spanish marketers estimating that it will still take two to three weeks before proper shipment of goods is possible again.

Italy

Whilst Italy has no direct links to the UK market, the country is a significant importer of EU pig meat which has has knock on effects for the EU pork industry.

The country, which has seen some of the most devastating impacts of the virus and has been in lock down since 21 February, has significant issues with missing and sick employees, forcing the closure of between 30-40% of processing capacity. Profit margins of slaughterhouses and cutters are said to be at high levels, but are running at significantly reduced throughputs.

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