Booming Imports Deepen The Crisis In UK Pig Sector

UK - The UK pig industry is facing serious problems with low prices and the imposition of welfare standards higher than anywhere else in Europe, with the exception of Sweden.
calendar icon 5 May 2006
clock icon 3 minute read

The total breeding herd in the UK now stands at 541,000 sows, according to the December 2005 census. Numbers have fallen by 6.5% on 12 months ago and there is little sign of the trend, which has seen the UK lose more than 120,000 sows in just six years, abating as major retailers increasingly source cheaper, imported products.

The total pig herd in the European Union, according to figures from Brussels, remains broadly unchanged at 152 million head, but there have been some significant changes in the distribution of animals. In Poland, the total number of breeding sows shot up last year by 10% to 1.8 million, while the total of in-pig gilts increased by 13%. That suggests that the Polish pig industry is set on an aggressive expansion programme, part of which is funded by UK-based companies.

This contrasts with the situation in both Denmark and the Netherlands, which have traditionally been major suppliers of bacon to the UK. The Danish breeding herd has fallen by 4.1% to 1.4 million sows, but there has also been a reduction of 7% in the total of in-pig gilts, pointing to further contraction.

In the Netherlands, the number of sows has slipped by 2.2% to 1.1 million, but there has been an 8.3% rise in the in-pig gilt total. Spain remains the largest pig producer in the EU with a breeding herd of 2.6 million sows, which is down marginally on the year. However, the general pattern is that numbers are falling in the EU-15 member states, while the opposite is happening in the 10 new member countries. In the UK context, the major problem is the decline in processing capacity and the danger of losing critical mass.

Source: The Herald

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