Further increase in the Danish breeding herd

Thursday, 19 November 2020

By Bethan Wilkins

Provisional figures from Statistics Denmark indicate a national herd of 13.36 million pigs on 1 October 2020. This was 6% above the herd size at the same time last year and 1% above the level three months earlier.

The breeding herd increased by 4% on the year, an acceleration in growth compared to earlier in the year, totalling 1.28 million head. The number of maiden gilts showed a particularly large increase, rising 9% year-on-year. This accentuated a 3% increase recorded for both in-pig sows and in-pig gilts.

It is interesting that producers still seem to be deciding to bring in new gilts. This suggests producers are reasonably confident about the outlook and there may be further expansion underway. Nonetheless, the market is likely to face some challenges in the coming year; Chinese import demand is expected to moderate overall, meaning global pork markets may be more subdued. Perhaps there had been some optimism around capitalising on lost German market share, but recently Denmark has also faced difficulties with supplying China due to coronavirus at processing sites.

Piglet and weaner numbers were up ahead of breeding herd growth, suggesting a productivity increase. This could further boost production on top of the growth in sow numbers. There were also 10% more slaughter pigs compared with 2019. This probably reflects delays to slaughter due to processing constraints caused by COVID-19 restrictions, as well as reduced demand for weaner exports to Germany.

It seems likely weaner export levels will now come under further pressure, with Germany unable to export pig meat to the lucrative Chinese market. On top of the breeding herd growth, this could further raise Danish slaughter pig availability in the medium term.

The UK is a key export market for Denmark and increasing production may well translate into an increase in import pressure. Of course, this is contingent on what the EU-UK trading relationship is like come the New Year.

Bethan Wilkins

Senior Analyst - Red Meat

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