Pigmeat production in the Republic of Ireland could top 280,000 tonnes this year, more than 40,000 tonnes up on 2013, with much of the increased output ending up on the UK market, according to a fresh analysis by AHDB Pork.
The Irish production growth is based on a rebuilding of the country’s pig herd from an outbreak of PRRS in 2013 and a rise in average carcase weights which, similar to the UK, has gone from 82.4kg two years ago to 86.3kg in January to May, 2015. There is also some evidence, however, that the growth in production may be almost over.
AHDB Pork points out that, as Ireland’s nearest neighbour, the UK is experiencing a small but definite increase in pork imports from the Republic, plus a continued movement of Irish pigs for slaughter to plants in Northern Ireland.
“In January-April 2015, Irish pork exports were up by 12%, with around 2,500 tonnes more entering the UK,” said AHDB Pork. “Although these extra volumes are relatively small, compared to the overall UK market, they came at a time when the market was already well supplied. Therefore, they will have added some extra pressure to UK prices.”
Moving on to an examination of current prices in Ireland, however, the AHDB Pork analysis draws the conclusion that Ireland’s pigmeat expansion may almost have run its course.
“With full production costs thought to be above €1.70 per kg, most producers are losing money and some will be under significant financial pressure,” said AHDB Pork. “This is reflected in sow slaughtering figures, which show a 12% year-on-year increase in the first half of 2015, to the highest level since 2006.
“With throughputs also higher in the second half of 2014, over 12,000 more sows were culled in the last 12 months than a year before. If this translates into a similar fall in the breeding herd, it could mean a year-on-year reduction of 8%. In reality, the fall will probably have been smaller than this but it could still mean that the expansion of production may come to an end later in the year.”
This leads into AHDB Pork’s final point, namely that any reduction in Irish supplies could take some pressure off the UK market, either through lower pork shipments or fewer Irish pigs being slaughtered in the UK.