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AHDB Pork Country Reports


15 January 2013

BPEX / AHDB Country Report Belgium - January 2013BPEX / AHDB Country Report Belgium - January 2013

Belgium is a significant exporter of pig meat, shipping the fifth largest quantity among EU Member States despite its relatively small size; it is only the eighth largest pig meat producer. It has traditionally been one of the four biggest suppliers of UK pork imports, although volumes have fallen in recent years so it has been only the sixth largest supplier so far in 2012.
BPEX / AHDB Country Reports
AHDB

Pig Numbers

According to the latest pig census, the Belgian pig herd increased by three per cent between June 2011 and June 2012 to reach 6.7 million head. This was largely the result of an increase in pigs being raised for slaughter, particularly those weighing over 50kg.

The increase in the herd was largely the result of improved sow productivity since the breeding herd was slightly smaller than a year earlier at 511,000 head. This marks the continuation of the recent trend of small declines in the breeding herd. However, with the number of maiden gilts lower than last year, the decline in the breeding herd appears likely to continue and, perhaps, accelerate.

Belgian Pig Numbers June

Source: USDA

Production

Belgian pig slaughterings in the first nine months of 2012 were two per cent lower than the same period of 2011 at 8.6 million head. Increased throughputs in June and July, were offset by lower numbers in most other months, with a particularly sharp fall in September, when throughputs were down by 12 per cent. Slightly heavier carcase weights meant that pig meat production was one per cent lower than in January – September 2011.

Belgian Pig Slaughterings

Source: Eurostat

Trade

During the first eight months of 2012, Belgian pork exports were five per cent higher than in the same period last year. Unlike other major EU exporters, Belgium still sends the vast majority of its shipments to other Member States; non-EU markets accounted for only seven per cent of total exports. By far the largest export market for Belgian pork was Germany, which took six per cent more than in 2011.

However, the main growth market was Poland, with shipments up by more than half as Polish production declined. There was similar growth in exports to the Czech Republic for similar reasons. Belgian pork was popular on these markets due to its relatively low price. Shipments to most other significant markets, including the UK, declined year on year.

Belgium’s geographical location means that it is relatively easy to move live pigs to and from neighbouring countries. In the first eight months of the year, the number of pigs involved was little changed from last year. Just under 600,000 pigs were exported, mainly slaughter pigs heading for the Netherlands or Germany. During the period, Belgium also imported around 240,000 slaughter pigs, mainly from France and the Netherlands, and just under 500,000 weaners, mostly from the Netherlands.

January – August

Source: Eurostat, GTIS

Prices

The strong links between the Belgian pig market and its neighbours Germany and the Netherlands mean that the Belgian pig price tracks the prices in those two countries very closely. Typically the Belgian pig reference price is slightly higher than the Dutch one but lower than the price in Germany. Prices remained firm throughout the first half of 2012, recovering from a drop early in the New Year to stabilise at around €155 per 100kg. However, in common with the rest of the EU, prices began to rise rapidly in early August and reached a peak of €183.50 in late September, their highest level since 2001. Prices subsequently eased back but remained high by historic standards.

Belgian weaner prices have also remained firm throughout 2012, following a similar trend to prices in the rest of the EU. The average price peaked at €50 per head in April before falling seasonally until July. The normal seasonal fall may have been accelerated somewhat by the high level of feed prices. Having reached a low point of €37.50, prices then began to increase again in response to the finished pig market, stabilising at around €44 per head from mid September.

Belgian Pig Reference Prices

Source: European Commission

Outlook

In the first nine months of this year, Belgian pig slaughterings and pig meat production were down two per cent from last year. With supplies expected to stay somewhat tight for the remainder of the year, for 2012 as a whole both slaughterings and production are set to be between one and two per cent lower than in 2011. Tighter supplies will make it difficult to maintain the export growth recorded in the first half of the year but, nevertheless, the amount of pig meat available for consumption in Belgium will be lower than last year.

With the Belgian breeding herd holding up better than in many other Member States, there may be only a small decline in pig slaughterings next year. Increased demand for Belgian pigs from Dutch and German slaughterhouses will play a part in this, as well as any reduction in the Belgian herd. However, the position will depend on how well Belgium progresses towards compliance with new welfare regulations on group housing of sows. The Belgian government says the country will be fully compliant with the rules but a producer survey in the summer indicated that a large proportion had yet to convert. This could mean that some breeders will leave the industry, hitting production in the second half of 2013.

With carcase weights unlikely to show a marked change, pig meat production may also fall at a similar to slaughterings. This implies that there will, once again, be lower supplies for consumption, particularly since there may be more export demand from other markets where supplies are set to be short.

January 2013

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