High French Auction Prices Fail to Cover Increased Inputs

by 5m Editor
20 May 2011, at 12:00am

Pig farmers in Brittany have seen a 10-year high in auction prices at around €1.43 per kilo, according to April figures released by the Marché du Porc Breton (MPB), writes Peter Crosskey.

Despite the headline figure, however, which is a 28 per cent year on year lift in April's prices for the baseline 56 TMP conformation, producers are worse off than they were in January last year when prices were scraping along at €1.07 per kilo.

The reason is simple: the recent increase of 20 cents in market rates has been cancelled out by a 30 cent rise in the cost of inputs.

Prices levelled out in November last year and started a steady unseasonable rise with flat spots in January and March. MPB reports that May prices have eased to €1.405 per kilo, attributing the drop to surplus stocks in northern Europe in the face of poor demand.

Over the past four months MPB notes a 1.87 per cent drop in slaughter numbers in the Uniporc Ouest abattoirs, with a projected throughput of 367,000 finished pigs over the summer months.

It will be the end of July before there is another directly comparable month against which to check the MPB forecast.

Uniporc Ouest has also registered a drop in the steadily dropping volumes of feed purchases for breeding sows: for the first two months of this year, there was a three per cent year-on-year drop.

For the six months from July 2010 to February 2011, there was a 4.2 per cent reduction of intake while from January to February 2011, the drop was 6.9 per cent although MPB does not rule out the possibility of a blip in this figure.

Elsewhere in Europe there are signs of a shrinking breeding herd: MPB cites a 5.7 per cent year-on-year drop in breeding sow numbers in Denmark, now at its lowest point since 2000.

The impact of this decline will not be felt immediately, even though finished pig numbers could be expected to throttle back by the end of the year.

Coincidentally, MPB cites a 5.7 per cent rise in clean pig numbers for the first four months of the year, at 6.1 million head, although much of this can be tracked back to falling live exports.

On the basis of calendar year 2010, France has seen a 1.8 per cent year on year drop in total pig numbers at 25.5 million, according to French farm statistics agency, SCEES.

Although exports rose 1.4 per cent to 735,000 tonnes carcass equivalent (tec), imports rose 4.1 per cent year on year to 617,000 tec, while consumption dropped by 0.6 per cent to 2.14 million tec.

Noting a long term decline in food's share of household disposable income, MPB notes that it has fallen from 16 per cent in 2000 to 11 per cent in 2010.

As if there were any doubt as to where this money is being spent, the 2011 MPB annual meeting heard that 2010 supermarket sales of fresh pork and charcuterie accounted for 84.5 per cent and 89 per cent of the retail market, respectively.

Within the multiple retail formats, hypermarkets accounted for more than 40 per cent of sales in both fresh pork and charcuterie.

Given that hypermarket listings are counted in tens of thousands, pig meat has to fight for visibility among just seven national buying groups with a younger demographic in its customer base than the traditional high street outlets. These have collectively lost 1.7 per cent in market share over the past five years.

May 2011