UNITED KINGDOM, London. Germany is a significant importer of live pigs for both fattening and slaughter. About 13.8 mill. pigs were imported in 2019. Slaughter totalled around 55 mill. head over the same period, indicating that about 25% of Germany’s production originates from piglets born elsewhere.
With the outbreak of ASF in German wild boar reducing the market for German pig meat, there may be some desire to reduce these live imports and so cut production originating in Germany. If the pigs could be finished and slaughtered outside of Germany, the market for them would be larger. However, this may be logistically challenging, as finishing and slaughter capacity in the origin countries (mainly Denmark and the Netherlands) is likely to be insufficient.
Nonetheless, live pig imports into Germany had already been falling so far this year, according to Statistics Germany. Between January and July, 5.8 mill. piglets were imported, 7% down on the same period in 2019. Slaughter pig imports were down to 1.4 mill. head, having stood at 2 mill. head last year. Coronavirus-related disruption has probably influenced this trend to some extent.
It also seems that Denmark is now finishing more pigs domestically again. Sow numbers have been increasing and slaughter is up a little so far this year, while live pig exports remain relatively stable. Previously, there had been a trend towards exporting more live pigs for finishing elsewhere.
The second largest importer of live pigs in Europe is Poland, with numbers totalling 6.8 mill. in 2019. Most of these pigs come from Denmark, and Poland may be seen as an alternative outlet for pigs that might have been sent to Germany. However, imports here have been down by 2% for January-June. Slaughter is also down by 8% so far this year. Poland continues to struggle with its own ASF outbreak, which also affects some commercial farms, and so reports indicate that confidence in this market is not particularly high. This may limit the demand for fattening pigs in Poland.
Assuming Germany’s ASF outbreak remains localised and within the wild boar herd, the limited alternative options mean it is likely that similar numbers of live pig imports will continue in the short-medium term. However, the experts would expect the price paid for these pigs to fall.