Defra figures showing slaughter deficit highlight lack of progress in easing pig backlog

Processors slaughtered 28,000 fewer pigs in October than in the same month a year ago, according to new Defra figures, which highlight the lack of progress in easing the pig backlog. 

Defra’s monthly slaughtering stats show October UK clean pig slaughterings in October were 2.9% down year-on-year at 951,000 head, compared with 979 head in October 2020.

The October 2021 figure was up on the September figure of 918,000, although this can largely be accounted for by the extra day in the month.

A clearer like-for-like comparison, the average weekly slaughter figures, showed an average of 215,000 weekly clean pig slaughterings in October, up fractionally from 214,000 in September, but well down on the 221,000 average figure for October 2020.

The October stats also show a big year-on-year decline of 44% in sows and boars slaughtered – 13,000 compared with 23,000 a year earlier.

And in a clear sign of how the backlog has grown rapidly in recent weeks, estimated to be currently in excess of 120,000 pigs, average carcase weights leapt nearly 3kg in October alone, to average 91.5kg, compared with 88.6kg in September and 86.6 in July.

October pigmeat production was 89,000 tonnes, 1% lower than in October 2020.

This picture tallies with general market sentiment that there has been no real progress in eating into the backlog in recent weeks. It also confirms the trends shown by AHDB’s weekly market estimates. Over four weeks in October, AHDB’s estimated clean pig slaughterings were around 40,000 down on 2020 levels.

The situation remains desperate on many farms, with many close to or having already run out of space. The NPA has heard of around 14,000 pigs that have been culled across various units to ease space pressures.

As the Government’s support package starts to kick into effect over the next few weeks, the NPA said it would continue to work to ‘ensure the package is delivered as intended, that is to help reduce the backlog on farms, and that the costs of doing so are shared fairly across the supply chain’.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.