EU Pork Exports Continue to Surge; Production Still Growing, but at Slower Pace

The European Union’s pork/pork variety meat exports continue to shatter records, with April shipments totaling 355,461 metric tons (mt) – up 64 percent year-over-year. Most of the pork in subsidized storage (roughly 60,000 mt) under the EU’s private storage aid (PSA) scheme was released onto the market in April, which further bolstered exports. April muscle cut exports increased at an even quicker pace, jumping 81 percent from a year ago to 235,095 mt, including a tripling of exports to China (110,875 mt, +229 percent).

January through April, EU pork/pork variety meat exports increased 37 percent to 1.236 million mt, which included a 44 percent increase in muscle cuts (to 780,343 mt). January-April results in key markets included China (584,898 mt, +87 percent year-over-year), Hong Kong (125,255 mt, +46 percent), Japan (114,916 mt, +22 percent), South Korea (72,897 mt, -21 percent), the Philippines (66,713 mt, +42 percent), United States (39,809 mt, +22 percent), Australia (29,990 mt, -5 percent) and Vietnam (21,253 mt, +204 percent).

Exports to China/Hong Kong accounted for 47 percent of the EU’s January-April muscle cut exports and 57 percent of its total pork/pork variety meat exports. Excluding China/Hong Kong, EU exports to the rest of the world were up 4.5 percent to 527,000 mt.

European Commission estimates show that growth in EU pork production finally eased in March but with continued strength in some member states, including Spain and the Netherlands. The Commission does not expect a decrease in production until the fourth quarter of this year.

First-quarter slaughter was up slightly from last year, below the Commission forecast of +1.7 percent. This was certainly a slowdown compared to the remarkable 5 percent slaughter growth recorded in the first quarter of 2015. Production in the current quarter should also be running close to year-ago levels, and the final 25,000 mt of stored pork (through the PSA program mentioned above) hit the market this month, with the final tranche likely finished this week.

Huge export volumes, more modest production growth and seasonal trends should be fueling higher EU pig prices – and that is happening, but slowly. EU prices added another 1.5 percent over the past week, up 9 percent from last month and up 2 percent year-over-year. However, the U.S. price rally continues to outpace these increases, keeping U.S. prices above the EU level for the past nine weeks. At 150.75 euros/100kg ($76.77/cwt), EU prices are still 8 percent below the 2010-2014 average.

Sources: Global Trade Atlas, European Commission