How COVID-19 has affected Spanish pork production

In the May issue of Pig World, Miguel Ángel Higuera, executive director of ANPROGAPOR, the Spanish Pig Producers Association, explains how COVID-19 has affected Spanish pig production

The situation with the coronavirus pandemic in Spain is, unfortunately, more complicated than in other countries. The lockdown began on March 14 and, at the time of writing, we are still in it.

The first aspect to point out is that pigs has been declared an essential sector. The Government and competent authorities have to ensure that the supply chain is working, from the production centres, such as farms and slaughterhouses, to the essential related activities. The pig chain is working and is facing three important situations:

Daily work

The main objective has been to maintain a biosafe working environment, whether in a feed mill, farm or slaughterhouse. Several actions have been implemented:

  • Specific recommendations and work and protection systems to prevent virus spread
  • Segregation between workers at farm entrances and exits, and shifts in the workplace to reduce contact between workers
  • Hand washing, use of personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfection of facilities
  • Minimum distance of two metres between workers
  • Specific rules in common areas
  • Proper management of workers, who have come into contact with possible positive cases.

So far, no major problems have been reported at production level. The most that has been reported is occasional absences from work for 15 days, to verify whether the contact is positive or negative. All farms have planned how to apply work protocols in the event of a reduction in the number of workers.

Change in domestic demand

The closure of the catering channel means the only possibility of reaching consumers has been through retailers. Pork consumption at home has increased by
20-22% in these six weeks, while processed pork products are up by 17%. However, this increase has not compensated for the loss of the catering channel, so internal consumption of pork is down.

There are two sectors in Spain going through very difficult times. The market for the traditional roast suckling pig has now collapsed.

The Iberian sector, with a great reliance on specialised stores, has also lost a lot of market share. The sector has another problem, as it’s producing add-value products; so, in these times of economic difficulty, consumption is reduced.

In spite of these circumstances, there is no specific economic aid for the pig sector from the Spanish Ministry. Aid is available for access to credit, but it is general. We are not optimistic about the European Commission’s reaction. The pig sector will have to get out of the situation without external aid.

International markets

Globally, we are still deficient in pigmeat due to African swine fever.

Spain is the third largest pigmeat exporter and a very important part of the price depends on exports to third countries. Exports are increasing with an overall rise of +10% this year. However, there have been difficulties in the intra-EU market due to the impact of the general lockdown on road transport.

In this context, Spain has reduced sales to other EU partners by 7%, but has increased exports to third countries by 33%, led by China with an increase of 80% in 2020. The downward pressure from the US in global markets is dragging down the rest of the countries.

There is constant concern throughout the industry that at any time, any farm, or worse, any slaughterhouse, could cease operations due to the coronavirus. Therefore, work is frantic to avoid delays or product bottlenecks.

The domestic market is behaving well, considering, but exports are beginning to suffer from the downward pressure from the US.

  • Miguel Ángel Higuera has been executive director of ANPROGAPOR. He is veterinarian specialising in pig production and has various roles in Brussels on EU farm body,

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