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UK pork outlook update

British pork sector faces extraordinarily challenging period

24 November 2021, at 1:25pm

Driven by rising feed costs and logistical challenges, margins have been difficult for UK pork producers for an extended period of time.

According to AHDB, processing capacity is just not there for the available slaughter-ready pigs at the moment. Reports indicate a lack of butchery staff.

Furthermore, discrepancy between supply and demand has put further downward pressure on pig prices, a trend that has been heavily influenced by low pig prices across Europe, said the report. This is partially due to a drop in Chinese demand, which has led to falling prices.

Clean pig slaughter in Q3 totally 2.75 million head, which is 1% higher than last year. Slaughter in October was also 1% above last year's figures.

AHDB said there have been reports of significant backlogs of pigs waiting on farms. This is evidenced by an increase in carcase weights at slaughter.

In the short-term, AHDB said it's difficult to establish a fixed number as to how many pigs currently remain on farms and what kind of capacity would be needed in order to clear them. However, there are increasing expectations of a decline in pig availability in 2022.

The latest reports from the National Pig Association suggest the sow herd could drop by around 25,000-30,000 sows this year.

Defra figures suggest that only 58,000 adult pigs were killed in Q3, 6% less than last year. AHDB experts believe that some sow slaughter is missing from this total and the actual number should be closer to 64,000.

"This would be about 3.5% higher than last year, in line with expectations following the relatively low culling levels in 2020," said the report.

Pig meat production in Q3 totalled 249,000 tonnes, 2% higher than last year. There has so far been no sign of carcase weights easing, with weights in the SPP sample now averaging over 92kg.