France to Lead Wave of European Pig Farm Closures

FRANCE - The hog sector in Europe is to suffer a wave of closures as farmers sell up rather than fork out on meeting tighter animal welfare red tape, helping depress the region's herd to its smallest in at least a decade.
calendar icon 10 September 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

A "high percentage" of European Union pig farmers are expected to shut up shop rather than meet the costs of ammonia-emission limits, which would require some to install air treatment equipment, and sprucing up buildings to meet fresh limits on animal accommodation.

According to, many farmers also face extra costs for castrating pigs, after a furore in many countries over pork obtained from animals neutered without the use of full anaesthetic procedures, as had been a common practice.

With margins tight since 2007, and facing further pressure from rising grain prices, "farmers are reluctant to invest in their farms", a report from US officials in Europe said.

The French sector was set to see a particularly high rate of closures, after suffering from particularly poor profitability and failing to follow a modernisation drive implemented in top producing states such as Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

The shutdowns look set to fuel a decline in EU pig numbers, which are set to fall to 150.7m animals by the end of next year, down by nearly 11m in five years.

A fall in demand for pork during the global economic crisis has already brought the "termination of the most inefficient farms throughout the EU, and a reduction in backyard farming", the report said.

And stagnant demand within the region for pork, coupled with growing competition on meat export markets from Brazil and Thailand, will act as an disincentive for expansion.

Furthermore, Europe faces a collapse of one-quarter in exports of live animals for slaughter this year following the decision by Russia, historically responsible for about half of trade, to join Belarus and Kazakhstan in a customs union.

The tie-up prompted a jump from 5 per cent to 40 per cent in Russia's import duties on live pigs.

The continuing troubles in Europe's hog industry contrast with those in the US, where pig and pork giant Smithfield Foods on Wednesday hailed a turning in the cycle, and its first quarterly profit on hog production since 2007.

Many European countries are attempting to improve prospects for their farmers and meat producers by agreeing trade deals with China, the biggest pork consumer.

Denmark, France and Spain have already received consent to export directly to China, with the Netherlands expected to be approved this year.

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