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Coronavirus affecting EU trade in pigs

19th Mar 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The coronavirus outbreak is having an unsettling impact the market for slaughter pigs across Europe due to the closure of borders, a big drop off in food service demand and the cancellation of events.

abattoir workersCiting a report by AMI, an agricultural market information company in Germany, AHDB analyst Duncan Wyatt said: "Many borders are closed, as are restaurants, and major events are cancelled.

"Across Europe, companies slaughtering pigs are therefore extremely cautious. Farmers are trying to market their existing slaughter pigs as quickly as possible, resulting in pressure on prices."

In Italy, in particular, where coronavirus has hit hardest, slaughter companies and meat processors have significantly reduced their production.

"Farmers are finding it hard to market remaining pigs and transportation is sometimes difficult. Price falls are expected. However, the industry is still operating," Mr Wyatt said.

According to Italian farming union, Coldiretti, from a legal point of view, goods are supposed to move normally. There are border checks that can slow down trade, but they are not stopping the free movement of goods, only people.

Another issue Italy is experiencing is with labour. As with many European countries, Italy relies on labour from other countries, meaning the restriction on the movement of people is causing shortages.

"Although the restrictions introduced do not prohibit travel for work reasons, movements allowed into the country have to be accompanied by a self-declaration form. However, there is apparently a strong risk of a labour shortage as increasingly people are refusing to work due to fear of possible infection from other people," Mr Wyatt said.

"Some hauliers are also understandably concerned about the health of their drivers, and the likelihood that they might be quarantined, which can also restrict trade."

Although there are some difficulties, feed companies are ensuring necessary supplies to farmers to safeguard the health and welfare of their animals, and to maintain the production level on farms.

However, there are already signs of difficulty in the handling of goods, both raw materials and finished products, Mr Wyatt added.

A general fund of 25 billion euros has been outlined in Italy for the upcoming months, but there are not sector specific details. At the moment, the only measures seem to be the suspension of deadlines for compliance, payment of taxes and social security, and welfare contributions.