March 13, 2018
Spain's pig population largest in EU
Spain has the largest pig herd in the European Union, as its pig population hit 30 million in December 2017, up 3% on the year.
Citing the latest census results published by Eurostat, AHDB Pork said the female breeding herd also rose by 3% compared with the previous year.
"It is likely that the high pig prices received for the majority of 2017 compared to 2016 encouraged Spanish pig producers towards growth", the pork division of the UK levy body Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board said.
As a result, Spanish pig meat production and exports are anticipated to increase again in 2018.
In 2017, Spanish pig meat production totalled 4.2 million tonnes, up 2% from the previous year.
Exports of fresh and frozen pork were up a further 3% in terms of volume last year, following an 18% increase in 2016.
Export volumes to the EU, which receives 65% of Spanish shipments, were up 7% year-on-year, Growth to a number of smaller EU markets, including the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, was primarily responsible for this increase.
France as main export market
Last year, France resumed its position as Spain's main export market for pork, despite exports actually remaining steady on the year due to the downturn in Chinese imports. There was also a 3% growth in shipments to the UK despite a weaker sterling.
In contrast, there was an overall 3% fall in exports to non-EU countries, as well as a change in the makeup of export destinations. Spain remained a key supplier of pig meat to China, but exports fell by 18%, reflecting the ongoing recovery in Chinese domestic production.
With Chinese import demand slowing, Japan became an important destination for Spanish pork in 2017, increasing imports by 34% year-on-year, totalling, 109,000 tonnes.
If the Chinese market becomes more difficult, Spanish exporters will likely turn to the EU, AHDB Pork said. "This could be challenging, as there are concerns the European market is reaching saturation, and so prices might experience some downward pressure".
Average pig prices in the EU as a whole were up on the year from January to October. Average unit prices in 2017 were 7% higher, in euro terms, than year-earlier levels. "This meant the value of their (Spain's) pork export market grew ahead of volume, up 11% year-on-year.