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AHDB forecasts big drops in sow herd and pork production for 2022

1st Aug 2022 / By Alistair Driver

A significant drop in UK pork production is forecast for this year, followed by an even bigger drop next year, on the back of a big reduction in the national sow herd. 

AHDB's latest pork market outlook estimates that the UK breeding herd has lost about 40,000 sows over the past year, which will result in a 6% reduction in UK pigmeat production this year, followed by a 9% fall next year.

Based on Defra survey data, historic productivity figures, actual slaughter and an allowance for a backlog, AHDB estimates that the UK sow herd was 'close to 415,000 head during 2020 and the first half of 2021'.

But it adds: “Poor profitability and logistical difficulties lead to a forecast decline in the size of the UK sow herd in June 2022 to around 350,000 head as the base case for this outlook.”

Pig meat production in the first five months of the year was 452,000 tonnes, 6% higher than at the same point in 2021. Clean pig slaughter was only 1% higher, with the rest accounted for by heavier carcase weights due to the backlog. Weights are now falling, but they are still above last year’s levels.

While the backlog has until now masked the decline in the sow herd, the drop in clean pig supplies will at some point outweigh any remaining backlog, AHDB noted.

As such, clean pig slaughter is expected to fall by around 15% in the second half of the year.

Carcase weights are expected to continue to fall as more typical market conditions return. This forecast assumes car-case weights of around 89kg on average over the next 18 months.

Pig meat production in 2022 as a whole is therefore expected to fall by 6% compared to 2021, to around 970,000 tonnes. It is expected to fall a further 9% in 2023.

UK demand is expected to weaken slightly as the year progresses, as pre-pandemic trends re-emerge along with wider increases in the cost-of-living.

Export markets remain challenging with Chinese demand slowing. Although exports had been increasing, higher GB pig prices and declining production may constrain future volume growth. Imports are expected to grow in the second half of year as declines in demand are outweighed by declines in production.

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