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UK: 2024 Pork Outlook

Pork

UK pork production will see only limited growth in 2024, following a big decline last year, with slow growth also forecast for the breeding herd, according to AHDB's 2024 Pork Outlook.

Posted on Feb 15 ,00:10

UK: 2024 Pork Outlook

Pigmeat production will grow by less than 1% this year, following an 11% year-on-year contraction in 2023, as clean pig slaughter fell to its lowest number in a decade on the back of the dramatic contraction in the breeding herd in 2022.

After a 10% decline in slaughterings in 2020 UK, pig supply remains tight supply for pigs and AHDB forecasts this will continue through the first half of 2024.

This is weighted towards Q1 with throughputs back year on year as many processors pulled pigs forward for kill at the back end of last year to meet Christmas demand. Although numbers in Q2 are predicted to pick up by 2% year on year, this is compared to a historic low and numbers forecast to be very similar to Q1.

A small uptick in throughputs, also around 2%, is predicted over the second half of 2024, as the gilts intended for first-time breeding recorded in the June 2023 census start farrowing.

Overall, AHDB forecasts that pig meat production in 2024 will grow marginally by 0.6% year on year to around 933,000 tonnes, driven by a 0.8% increase in the clean pig kill, totalling somewhere near 10.14 million head for the year. This forecast is based on average carcase weights of 89 kg, remaining in line with 2023.

Despite improved farm margins, AHDB stresses that 'hesitancy remains within industry, as the new year continues the theme of uncertainty'.

Easing pig prices, high inflation rates and an impending general election are limiting interest in large-scale investment, and instead of expanding herd sizes in 2024, AHDB expects to see a further focus on ‘herd rejuvenation’.

On this basis, it forecasting the breeding herd to only inch up by around 2% to around 340,000 head, followed by 'subdued growth' over the next couple of years as the market rebalances.

AHDB anticipates that pigmeat imports will continue to grow in 2024, ending the year up 3% on 2023.

It is forecasting a 1% increase in UK pig meat export volumes for 2024, based on a marginal increase in production, but volumes are expected to remain historically low.

AHDB expects the UK continue closely following movements in the EU market to maintain competitiveness.

With supplies still running tight in both regions, prices may stabilise as the year progresses, but ultimately the balance of supply verses changes in demand throughout the year will dictate where pig prices sit, it said.

AHDB expects overall pork demand for 2024 to be down by 2% compared to 2023 and by 4% compared to 2019, as a result of eating-out not returning to pre-Covid levels and retail sales of meat suffering from the cost-of-living crisis.

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