IRELAND - Having grown for seven consecutive years, Irish pork exports reached 168,000 tonnes in 2015, 13 per cent higher than the year before and more than double their level in 2009.
Around a third of this total headed for the UK market and Ireland also exports significant quantities of processed pig meat products to the UK (38,000 tonnes last year, including 9,000 tonnes of sausages).
Pork shipments to the UK only grew at a similar rate to those to other destinations in 2015, despite the favourable exchange rate, probably an indication of UK buyers’ continuing preference for domestic product.
Trade with Germany, mainly made up of sow carcases as in the UK, was up sharply, partly reflecting an 8 per cent rise in sow slaughterings. Third country trade was only slightly higher, as strong sales to China were offset by reduced exports to Japan, Korea and, of course, Russia.
Last year’s increased exports were aided by a 9 per cent rise in Irish production in 2015, with both higher slaughterings (+6 per cent) and heavier weights (up over 2kg/head) contributing. This followed expansion of the Irish breeding herd during 2014, coupled with improved health status.
However, latest figures suggest a different trend is likely for 2016, with the Irish sow herd down 5 per cent in 2015.
This means production may well fall back in 2016, although this might be mitigated if carcase weights increase further.
In turn, this suggests that the long-term growth in exports could end this year, at least temporarily. With a less favourable exchange rate and narrowing gap between UK and Irish pig prices, this could reduce the amount of Irish pig meat on the UK market. Although this is unlikely to have a dramatic effect, it could provide some much-needed support to domestic prices.
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