Falling Irish pork exports in 2019, despite stable production

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

By Bethan Wilkins

In 2019, Ireland exported 274,000 tonnes of pig meat (incl. offal), which was 4% less than the year before. Primary pork drove the overall decline, with exports 8% lower. Exports of processed products, which are primarily destined for the UK, were also 1% down.

The UK is Ireland’s main pig meat trading partner. Overall, 12% less product was shipped to the UK last year. This drove most of the decline, though there were also noticeable decreases to Denmark, Japan, and South Korea.

Like most countries with market access, Ireland did see a substantial (+47%) increase in trade with China last year. This increased the share of exports going to China from 20% to 31%. However, this was not enough to compensate for declines to other destinations.

Falling exports came despite domestic production remaining stable. The data does suggest a drop in imports, which could have limited supply availability. However, import volumes reported last year were unusually high, and the 2019 volume is in line with typical levels. Poor demand in the UK may have also affected trade.

Nonetheless, a 12% rise in the average pork export price meant the value of the market was still in growth.

Looking forward, the latest census results suggest increasing pork production in Ireland this year. Tight supplies elsewhere in the EU may help keep the market in balance, especially as Chinese demand is expected to remain strong.

Central Statistics Office figures indicate that the number of pigs in Ireland in December 2019 totalled 1.61 million, 3% more than a year earlier. There was an increase in both the breeding herd and pigs for slaughter. Note though, that the figures for December 2018 recorded a 3% year-on-year decline, even though slaughter last year was stable. So, some caution must be used when interpreting the census results.

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