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EU Pork Expansion Stalls, but Don’t Expect Major Slowdown in Production

EU-Breeding-Sows

December 2015 inventory survey data indicate EU pork production will remain steady over the near term, with a possible slowdown in the second half of this year. With the major producers and most other EU member states reporting, the total pig inventory is nearly 140 million head, which is a slight increase (+0.4 percent) from last year. Breeding sows totaled 11.8 million head (-2 percent) and piglets declined slightly (-0.3 percent) to 39.16 million head.

In December 2014, the EU’s total inventory was up 1.7 percent, including a 0.7 percent increase in sows and a 2.7 percent increase in piglets. In 2015, EU production is estimated to have increased by about 2.7 percent, to 23.4 million mt. Thus the 2016 outlook seems a little brighter, with more stable production rather than continued growth. But the data also do not suggest a significant decline in EU production in the coming months.

The biggest decreases in actual sow and piglet numbers, respectively, were found in Poland (-15 percent; -9 percent) and Germany (-4 percent; -1 percent). Sow numbers also decreased in the Netherlands (-5 percent), France (-2 percent), Denmark (-1 percent) and Ireland (-5 percent). These are listed in order of the decrease in numbers (see chart). But these decreases were partially offset by continued growth in Spain (+5 percent, on top of 5 percent growth last year) as well as modest increases in the United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria and Austria. Hungary’s inventory was steady with last year.

EU-Hog-Inventory

Perhaps another encouraging sign: piglet numbers in Spain were only steady with last year (after 12 percent growth in December 2014). The largest growth was in the Netherlands (+6 percent), Portugal (+7 percent) and France (+1 percent).

The last year-over-year decrease in EU pork production was in 2013, when it declined by 0.7 percent. In December 2012, the sow inventory was down 4.5 percent and piglets were down 1.7 percent. So the inventory reductions in December 2015 are much smaller, therefore suggesting only a modest slowdown in EU production.

In summary, the challenging economic situation in Europe appears to have stalled the expansion in EU pork production, and a slowdown in the second half of this year appears likely. But inventory numbers still do not indicate a significant decrease in overall production.

Source: European Commission (Romania and Belgium have not yet reported)