African Swine Fever (ASF) is set to continue to impact the global pigmeat trade again this year, according to Bord Bia.
Further outbreaks of the highly contagious haemorrhagic viral disease have been recently detected in Italy, Macedonia and Thailand.
There have been no outbreaks of the disease in Ireland, but it has been spreading throughout Europe since 2014.
Peter Duggan, pigmeat and poultry manager with Bord Bia, said that ASF is having a “significant impact” on European trade.
He told Bord Bia’s recent meat marketing seminar that as a result of ASF, Germany’s breeding herd has dropped by 150,000 pigs and the country has been suspended from a number of international markets.
Despite the threat posed by ASF, Duggan outlined that pigmeat production across the EU reached record highs in 2021, increasing by 2% to almost 24 million tonnes, driven by strong Spanish output.
The seminar heard that Chinese pigmeat ouput has recovered faster than expected from a devastating ASF outbreak there with production 34% higher last year, but producer prices slipped below the cost of production.
Brazil also hit record production levels over the past 12 months, due to strong domestic and international demand.
Here at home, Duggan said that Irish pig throughput reached four million head last year; 3.6 million at processing level and 440,000 live exports.
Throughput was running at over 70,000 head a week for most of the year and this led to capacity issues at processors, especially in the back end of the year, resulting in some pigs being held back for two to three weeks.
The Bord Bia manager also highlighted that labour shortages at factories in Northern Ireland due to Brexit and Covid-19 saw a 9% reduction in live exports to there.
The seminar heard that Irish pigmeat export value dropped by 3% to €542 million last year reflecting lower producer prices; volume was up by 3% as a result of a rise in throughput.
Duggan said that Irish pigmeat prices for 2021 were 9% lower compared to the previous year, but were still significantly ahead of European levels.
During 2021, 71% of Irish pigmeat exports went to international markets, which is up around 13% on previous years.
One of the big challenges for the Irish industry last year was the slowdown in demand from China.
In the early part of the year, Ireland was sending between 10,000 and 12,000t of pigmeat to China but by the end of the year that had fallen back to around 5,000 or 6,000t.
Another major challenge for pig farmers was the spiraling cost of feed. Duggan said this is forecast to continue into the first half of this year and thereafter will be dependent on the harvest in the northern hemisphere.
In terms of the outlook for 2022, the seminar heard that US output is expected to marginally decline but the Brazilian industry is anticipated to increase.
Chinese output is forecasted to grow by 1% to 49.5 million tonnes this year, while pigmeat imports are expected to drop by around 4% to 4.2 million tonnes, which is still a significantly higher level than before the ASF outbreak.