Simon Grey, General Manager Europe

Pig price across Europe remains at record high levels. Supply and demand is working and creating a high pig price. There are some small signs of some farms that took advantage of low price to destock and renovate are now confident to restock. However, a lot of farms that have stopped production will never restart.

Across Europe pig production has declined 8% compared to this time in 2022. Smallest fall has been Poland at 3% and largest Denmark at 20% (Poland imports about 25% of its production as feeder pigs, the majority coming from Denmark). Spain the largest producer in Europe has lost 7% and Germany the former largest producer 8%. Germany will continue to lose production as the government introduces more and more rules that are supposed to increase welfare. Every other country that has done this has lost 50% of its production, as the result of legislation is significant increase in cost of production and loss of performance!

In other bits of Europe pig farmers are being paid to stop production (Netherlands).

Governments of North-Western Europe certainly seem determined to significantly reduce pig production in their own countries, in the name of the environment and animal welfare.

There are slaughter plants closing their doors. So far one in Denmark and another in the UK. Less pigs in Europe means less slaughter capacity required. There will be more closures, but hopefully not to the level that there is lack of slaughter capacity which can significantly impact on price. Other than this there is little to suggest that the supply / demand situation will change significantly in the nearest future.

Some good news is with feed raw material prices falling it would seem pig farmers might have a sustained period of profitability. This is certainly very long overdue.

Getting reliable statistics is a challenge. Even from EU’s own data. One report says EU exports (2022) 13% of its production. If this is the case, then with 8% reduction in production the EU will be nearing becoming a net importer of pork. However, other data on production, consumption exports are about 26% of total production.

This also however shows over 2.5 million tonnes of pork produced that seems to go nowhere. Either production is lower, or consumption is higher based upon these figures.

Cross referencing production and herd size, it looks as though this is about correct with pigs slaughtered divided by sow herd size giving 22.8 pigs sold per sow per year. A calculated average slaughter weight of 97kg may be a little high meaning slightly less tonnage produced than stated.

Based upon this data, Europe is a long way off becoming a net importer of pork. From this point of view the political move to get pig production reduced (in North-Western Europe) can continue for some considerable time. Not great news for European pig farmers in those regions!

The Environmental and Welfare Dilemma

All of the good information I read about reducing emissions from pig production states improving biological efficiency. This would seem to be basic common sense as well. This leads to the 2 dilemmas.

First is the legislation for “higher welfare”. All of this legislation, more space per pig, no gestation and even farrowing crate in some countries, no Zinc oxide, even reducing number born alive genetically etc…. all make pig production less biologically efficient! This would mean an increase of emissions! What do the legislators want, seems to me the science says a choice needs to be made between environment and (perceived) welfare.

Secondly there is the environment itself. Today Europe has some very biologically efficient pigs farms. Reducing production in Europe will mean increasing production in other countries. Quite likely where biological efficiency is lower, due to climate and disease. Look at where pork is exported to today from Europe. When we talk about climate change or GLOBAL warming it is just that. Its not called European Warming. Replacing biologically efficient European Pig Production with production in other parts of the world that is less biologically efficient actually increases emissions!!! Once again the opposite of what politicians say they are trying to do.

With global population increasing to 9 billion the globe needs more food, not less! Closing down efficient food production in Europe seems not only bad for the global environment but also bad for the extra people who are going to want food.

According to data from the UN, there are over 845,000,000 people in the world suffering from malnutrition, nearly two times the population of Europe. Over 25,000 people a day or 9,125,000 people a year die from starvation. European politicians want to focus on animal welfare! How about human welfare! The vast majority of pig farmers care passionately about the real welfare of their pigs. Its their business. Dead pigs make no money! Once again legislation leading to the production of less pork seems to say that for the politicians legislating, pigs are more important than people.

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This post was written by Genesus