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First half of 2021 was the pig sector's worst financial situation on record

3rd Sep 2021 / By Alistair Driver

The first half of 2021 represented the worst financial situation for pig producers on record. 

New AHDB figures highlight how record costs of production and lower pig prices than in 2020 resulted in producers losing, on average 28p/kg, or £24/pig, during the second quarter, following similar losses in Q1.

"The first half of 2021 therefore represents the worst financial situation for pig producers, across a six-month period, on record. It is typical for pig production to go through cycles of profitability and loss-making. However, it is unusual for margins to be this low for a prolonged period," AHDB analyst Bethan Wilkins said. 

COP Q2

Estimated GB pig production costs in Q2 reached a record 182p/kg, according to the latest AHDB estimates, an increase of 8p/kg from the previous high of 174p/kg recorded Q1. Production costs were 27p/kg higher compared to the same time last year.

The increase primarily reflects rising feed costs, as elevated global cereal and oilseed prices feed into the cost of pig feed. Feed costs now account for 67% of total costs. However, both labour and fixed costs also increased compared to the first quarter of 2021.

Pig prices have increased compared to the start of the year. The APP averaged 154p/kg in Q2, 9p/kg more than during the first quarter. However, compared to last year, prices are 13p/kg lower. This means that, on average, pig producers remain in a significant loss-making situation.

The Q2 net margin of -£24/head, compares with -£26/head in the first quarter and +£10/head in the second quarter of last year.  

The AHDB estimates for net margins use spot feed prices and Ms Wilkins pointed out that producers will have varying buying strategies to mitigate the volatility in feed markets, meaning the level of exposure to rising feed costs may be less in some cases than the estimates indicate. Non-cash costs, such as depreciation and family labour, are also included in the cost of production calculation, which do not affect the short-term cash flow of business.

"Nonetheless, the latest estimates paint a picture of finances that will be difficult for British pig producers to sustain for long," she said.

COP Q2 2

There are no signs, currently, that the situation will improve during the current quarter, and, with some producers have already quit the industry, AHDB is forecasting a further contraction.

The EU-spec APP averaged 165p/kg from the start of July to mid-August, which is higher than the Q2 average, but prices are now on a downward trend.

"Low EU prices and a more challenging Asian export market may mean this trend stays in place for the coming weeks," Ms Wilkins added.

"At the same time, it seems feed markets have remained strong. As such, the outlook for British pork producers remains difficult.

"In the July Outlook, we already believed some reduction in breeding herd numbers was underway and these latest financial figures support the view some industry contraction would be expected."