The Irish pig herd stood at 1.61 million head, on June 1, which was marginally below (-0.4%) the same point last year, according to the Central Statistics Office.
The breeding herd contracted by 4% on the year, to 143,000 head. This is the smallest breeding herd in 30 years. This suggests that supplies later in the year and early next could be tighter.
The reduction in the breeding herd may already be starting to weigh on production. In the first half of this year, Irish pig meat production reached 153,000 tonnes, 1% less than in the same period in the previous year, according to Eurostat.
Slaughter also declined during this period. Throughputs totalled 1.72 million head, 0.5% less than last year. This suggests that average carcase weights have actually been lighter this year; a contrast to trends seen in the UK.
Shrinking supplies appear to have affected exports. In the first half of this year, Irish exports of pig meat (incl offal) fell by over 3% compared to the same period in the year before. Shipments of fresh and frozen pork, Ireland’s most significant pig meat export, declined by 7% on the year.
Exports to China were up by over a third on the year, at 29,200 tonnes. However, this was not enough to compensate the decline in exports to Germany (-10%) and the UK (-21%).