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Overview of This Week's Pig Industry News

27 February 2012, at 11:08pm

ANALYSIS - The latest statistics reveal that the EU pig population is on a downward trend, writes Jackie Linden. Although not yet complete, the trend points to a reduction of two per cent in total pigs, with the number of sows down three per cent and four per cent fewer pregnant gilts. Pork exports from the US were 25 per cent higher in 2011 than 2010, with Asian markets the key drivers of trade. There has been a new outbreak of foot and mouth disease in pigs in Taiwan.

According to a report from the UK's Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (ADHB), the overall pig population in the EU looks to have fallen two per cent between 2010 and 2011.

Most EU Member States have now published provisional results of their pig censuses, taken between November 2011 and January 2012. The results cover 92 per cent of the total EU pig herd. The fall in the breeding herd was sharper, with the number of sows down by three per cent. The number of in-pig gilts was down by four per cent, suggesting that further falls can be expected during 2012.

Over the last year, there have been two main drivers behind the decline in the pig population: rising feed costs and the increase in pig welfare, particularly the sow stalls ban from January 2013. Increased sow productivity, however, has partly offset these downward pressures.

The same report highlights once again the dramatic increase in US pork exports – up 25 per cent from 2010. For fresh and frozen pork, increased shipments to Asian markets were the key driver of the growth in export volumes, particularly to Japan.

Imports of fresh and frozen pork to Japan picked up in the last quarter of 2011 and for the calendar year, and increased five per cent on 2010 levels, according to the AHDB report. The Japanese domestic pig market suffered in 2011 on the back of the earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent nuclear crisis, reducing domestic production and raising food safety concerns.

The US was the dominant supplier of pork imports, accounting for 41 per cent, a slight increase from 2010.

Looking forward, it is anticipated that the weak Japanese economy and domestic situation will continue to affect the pork market in 2012. Although pork production is forecast to show a small recovery and, with consumption projected to hold steady, no significant further growth in imports is likely.

Continuing on trade issues, Canada's Agriculture Minister says ending the restrictions imposed by US mandatory Country of Origin Labelling would benefit livestock producers on both sides of the Canada-US border.

In what has been described as a ‘ground–breaking commitment to animal welfare’, Bon Appétit Management Company, which operates more than 400 cafés for corporations, universities, museums and specialty venues in 31 US states, has announced the roll–out of the food service industry’s most comprehensive farm animal welfare policy to date. Among its new standards is a requirement for all pork it serves – currently three million pounds annually – be produced without gestation crate confinement systems.

And finally turing to news on foot and mouth disease, Taiwan has reported a new outbreak Kinmen, which has resulted in the slaughter of 98 pigs. There has also been an outbreak in cattle in the Ningxia region of China.