GERMANY, Bonn. The Iberians want to fill the gaps created in northern and western Europe. However, growth is limited by environmental regulations.
In Spain, the production of pigs and pork has grown more strongly in the past ten years than in any other country in the European Union; even the growth rates of Brazil or the USA have been exceeded. From 2010 to 2020, the herd increased by 6.7 million pigs, or 27 percent, to 31.4 million animals, and pork production even increased by almost 50 percent to 5 million tons due to increased slaughter weights. As a result, Spain has become the world's third-largest pork producer.
And an end to the expansion does not seem to be in sight for the time being - despite the recent sharp fall in pig prices. As of May 2021, farms have increased their pig herd by just over one million head year-on-year to 32.41 million head; for the first time, more than 58 million pigs are likely to be slaughtered this year, with production rising by just over four per cent to 5.2 million tonnes of pork. "The integrated livestock system has given the production sector financial, economic and operational 'muscle' that has enabled it to achieve such growth in terms of quantity and efficiency," Mercolleida director general Miquel Àngel Bérges explained in an interview with AgE.
„Production will continue to grow.“
Meat producers have significantly expanded their slaughtering and freezing capacities in recent years, he said, and have committed to internationalisation, with exports growing rapidly. Production capacity at the producer level has also expanded, he said. "Overall, there has been an increase in concentration and verticalisation, with large integrated pig producers with feed companies entering the slaughter sector and slaughter companies also entering pig production with the construction of new fattening barns," Berges explained. This has increased the efficiency and clout of the sector, which also attracts foreign investors, such as the Italian group Pini or Tönnies with its planned site in Calamocha, he added.
Farms plan further growth
The Spanish pork sector's strong focus on exports - in the first half of the year around half of production was sold abroad, and around 70 per cent of that to China - has created strong market and price pressure following the slump in exports to the People's Republic. The slaughter pig quotation on the Mercolleida has fallen by a good third since the end of June, while the costs for energy and feed have risen noticeably for producers. Berges nevertheless does not expect production to fall as it is likely to do in northern Europe. "Production in Spain will continue to grow next year due to the operational plans that have already been approved," the expert predicts.
However, the extent will depend on how the price-cost situation develops. Basically, the sector wants to use this crisis to strengthen structures to consolidate growth. There will be further steps towards verticalization and increased efficiency. According to Berges, China could import more pork again in 2022 as its own production declines, but the People's Republic is likely to become more of a market for by-products such as offal, heads or feet again in the medium term. Other export markets would have to be developed to reduce dependence on China. Spain's pig sector was confident that it would be able to take advantage of the fall in production in the north of the EU to sell more pork for export, he said.
Production grows in Aragon
According to the director general of Mercolleida, the expansion of pig farming and slaughterhouses is now facing increasing opposition from environmentalists and animal welfare campaigners in Spain. For example, growth in the production stronghold of Catalonia is hardly possible due to environmental regulations and is therefore shifting west to the provinces of Huesca or Zaragoza in the autonomous community of Aragon. But there, too, there is increasing pressure from environmental and animal protection groups. "What until a few years ago did not affect Spain and was still seen as a purely northern European problem is now a reality in this country that the sector has to learn to live with, discuss and negotiate," Berges noted.
However, he added, farms and slaughterhouses are also important for maintaining the local economy and combating rural depopulation. On the subject of animal welfare, Berges reported that although there was meat with an animal welfare label in the shops, the price was still too often an obstacle to a purchase decision in the economic crisis. The sector is aware, however, that it must move in this direction. There is no discussion about castration, as most pigs in Spain are produced without this intervention.
Source: fleischwirtschaft.de; AgE