LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg. Part of the increase may be due to marketing problems during the corona lockdown.
After Denmark and Austria have already reported an increase in the number of pigs, Italy is now also reporting a higher number of animals. According to data from the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat), a total of 8.91 mill. pigs were being kept in Italy on the May 2020 count, which was around 270,000 animals or 3.1% more than twelve months previously. This is the first time in three years that the herd has increased in size. However, a corona effect is also likely to have had an impact, as the reduced slaughtering and cutting capacities at the time of the survey meant that there was a certain amount of backlog in the stables for pig marketing. It is therefore not surprising that the category of fattening pigs saw the most significant increase compared to the previous year's survey, with a rise of 3.7% to almost 5.30 mill. head. The number of piglets weighing up to 20 kg increased by a relatively similarly strong 3.6% to 1.45 mill. head. With the runners between 20 kg and 50 kg the increase was below average with 1.4% to 1.56 mill. animals.
The Italian pig farmers have also increased their herds of breeding sows, within a year by 12,300 animals or 2.1% to 591,000 head. Different developments could be observed: The number of pregnant sows increased by 2.8% to 488,000, while the number of uncovered sows decreased by 1.1% to 103,000. The differences in the age structure are even clearer. Compared to May 2019, the number of old sows increased by 21,200 animals or 4.8%, while the number of gilts decreased by around 9,000 animals or 6.8%.
One explanation may be that after the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, pig prices in Italy had been falling for weeks and months and by the end of June there had been a slump of around 40% in the slaughter pig market. The mood of pig farmers had been poor, especially in the spring, due to the uncertain outlook and corona consequences, which is why producers are likely to have put up fewer gilts. In contrast, some of the older sows were probably not marketed because many meat producers needed less raw material due to the corona crisis.