Production figures highlight how UK pork sector is weathering the COVID-19 storm

UK pork production was 2% up on 2019 levels during the first five months of this year, highlighting how the industry has managed to avoid the level of disruption from COVID-19 seen in some countries.

May saw 71,000 tonnes of pork produced in the UK, according to Defra data. While this was 11% lower than May 2019, there were two fewer working days this year, exaggerating the fall.

801,000 clean pigs were slaughtered, 12% lower than a year ago. Clean carcase weights averaged 86.1kg, 1.84kg heavier than a year ago, although slightly lighter than those recorded in recent months. Only 15,000 sows were slaughtered in the month, 31% fewer than May 2019; these were 4.4kg lighter on average.

The May figure brought production in the year to 401,300 tonnes, 2% more than during the same period last year. More tellingly, production over the period from March to May was 238,000 tonnes, 2,700 tonnes more than the same period in 2019.

“The pork sector has weathered the conditions brought by coronavirus remarkably well and has broadly managed to maintain production, although sow prices have suffered,” said AHDB analyst Duncan Wyatt.

In contrast, the US industry has seen a massive impact, with 40-50% of production capacity lost at the peak and productivity still down on usual levels. A number of EU countries have also suffered plant closures due to COVID-19.

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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.