AHDB analyst Bethan Wilkins highlights some positives among the uncertain market outlook for the pig industry in 2019.
The pig industry in 2018 was dogged by a number of challenges, both domestically and on the international market.
With rising feed prices and falling pig prices, producers slipped back into the red by the latter half of the year. Looking forward, global market factors mean the industry faces considerable uncertainty in 2019, but perhaps there are some positive glimmers amongst the fog.
Overall, production is expected to rise again in 2019, reflecting a general background of improving sow productivity and perhaps some expansion from the integrated outdoor sector. AHDB forecasts anticipate domestic production reaching 957,000 tonnes for the year. This growth will likely be biased towards the second half of 2019, as poor fertility levels during the hot weather last summer may limit supplies early in the year.
There are some positive signs for demand levels; GB pig meat retail purchases have been trending higher, and there is potential for export growth. With African Swine Fever now in China, their import demand could increase significantly, supporting global pork prices.
While ASF is offering the British pig industry opportunities on the export market, the disease remains a very real threat. The risk of further spread throughout Europe, perhaps into key exporting nations, remains high and has the potential to bring significant disruption to the EU market.
Of course, GB producers also face uncertainty from Brexit. It is currently unclear what our trading relationship with Europe, and the rest of the world, will be this time next year. There could be opportunities for British meat to displace EU imports, but losing the EU export market, important for carcase balance and cull sows, remains a threat.