Small increase in Canadian pork exports, but pig numbers fall slightly

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

By Bethan Wilkins

Following a difficult third quarter, Canadian pork exports rebounded at the end of last year, as trade with China resumed. Pig meat shipments (including offal) during quarter four reached 307,900 tonnes, 3% more than a year earlier.

Nonetheless, Chinese shipments did not entirely recover, totalling 35,100 tonnes, less than half of 2018 volumes. In the final quarter, gains in shipments to other Asian nations, including the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam, offset the limitations on Chinese trade.

Despite the disruption in trade during 2019, pig meat shipments were still 1% up on 2018 at 1.17 million tonnes. China was also still the second-largest export destination, receiving 21% of all exports.

Exports to China are expected to recover further this year. This will be at the expense of other markets, as the potential for production growth remains limited.

Slaughter in 2019 was 1% higher than the year before, with growth limited by difficulties with PEDv early in the year. The slaughter pace has picked up so far this year, and was 4% above 2019 levels across January and February. However, sustaining this growth may be difficult given that the latest census results show a modest fall in pig numbers.

According to Statistics Canada, the total number of pigs on farm on 1 January 2020 was 1% down on a year earlier, at 13.88 million head. Within this, the breeding herd also fell by 1%, as did the number of piglets (under 7kg).

The number of pigs in heavier weight bands was more stable, with a slight increase in the number of young pigs. Overall, though, the number of pigs for slaughter was a little lower than last year at 12.63 million head.

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