EU pork sector crown shifts to Spain


Madrid / Hamburg-As a child in the province of Avila, Albert Pasqual’s father bought 100 pigs, but now he leads more than 9,000 pigs. This is part of a major expansion to take Spain to the top of the European Union. This year’s pork producer.

“My dad sold pigs all at once in the 1990s when this sector virtually didn’t exist. Now we [Spain] Is a world power, we have grown significantly and our company has grown in parallel with the development and growth of this sector, “Pasqual said.

Germany has long been the top producer of pork in the EU, but the African swine fever (ASF) among wild boars in September 2020 lost access to the profitable Chinese market. rice field.

This is accelerating the ongoing shift in EU production to ASF-free Spain, supported by less burdensome regulations in areas such as fertilizer planning and use.

According to European Commission data, China is by far the largest export market for EU pig products, accounting for about 56% of sales to date in 2021.

The country’s desire for imported pork soared following the outbreak of its own ASF, which devastated the world’s largest herd of pigs.

“In recent years it has been [China] Ramon Soler Ciurana, export manager of Faccsa-Prolongo, which is expanding pork packaging and refrigeration facilities in Malaga, southern Spain, said:

Last year, EU pig products shipped to China totaled 3.34 million tonnes, an increase of more than 60% from 2.31 million tonnes in 2019, almost triple the 1.28 million tonnes in 2018.

According to EU data, exports remained high this year, with a total of 1.86 million from January to July, down only 0.1% from the strong 2020.

“In the industry, of course, no matter how hard China acts or finds alternatives, it won’t be able to return to normal within four years,” Soller said.

German calamity

But Germany’s export problems have only accelerated a trend that has evolved over the years.

According to data from the European Commission, Spanish pork production totaled 2.6 million tonnes in the first half of 2021, up 4.1% from the same period last year, and is expected to increase for the eighth consecutive year.

In contrast, German pork production has fallen 1.3% to 2.52 million tonnes, heading for the fifth consecutive year of decline.

According to the German market consultancy AMI, the German farm in May 2021 had 24.6 million pigs, down 3.5% from 25.5 million in May 2020 and down from 28.1 million in 2014. Is continuing.

The effects of ASF are particularly severe in East Germany near the Polish border, where the disease has been found in wild boars and, more recently, domestic pigs. Measures such as a ban on the breeding of piglets have been imposed, and some slaughterhouses are hesitant to buy pigs from this area.

Strict rules

Germany’s stricter animal welfare and environmental regulations have contributed to the decline in pig farming as well as the decline in domestic demand for meat, partly related to the avoidance of lean meat and the transition to vegetarianism among adolescents.

Germany has strict planning rules that make it difficult for the industry to adapt to animal welfare laws related to issues such as the use of sow stalls.

“German farmers often want to invest in new piggery but don’t get approval from the local government,” said Toennies, Germany’s largest slaughterhouse and meat packaging group. Andre Vielstaedte says.

In some parts of Germany, fertilizer use is also restricted in connection with concerns about high levels of ammonia in the air.

In contrast, Spanish pig farmers benefit from the strong demand for slurries, which are natural fertilizers made from fertilizers and water, due to the depletion of much soil in the country and the lack of sufficient organic matter. ..

Investing in Spain

Toennies is one of the people investing in Spain.

Based in Rheda-Wiedenbruck, western Germany, the company is building a slaughterhouse factory in Calamocha, Spain, for approximately € 75 million ($ 87 million).

The operation will begin in 2023 and the factory will slaughter 2.4 million animals annually, creating up to 1,000 jobs.

“The Spanish pork market looks attractive and the political framework is positive,” said Vielstaedte of Toennies.

“Our new Spanish factory is solely for export to markets including pork ribs to North America, belly to Japan, and other products such as pig’s trotter and ears to other parts of China and Asia. is.”

Although Germany remains the company’s “core market,” Vielstaedte said, ASF was just one of the unattractive factors for international pig farming and pork marketing.

“Animal welfare and environmental protection create additional costs and require new investment, which creates a one-sided regulatory burden, but is rarely faced by farmers in other countries,” he says. I did.

Future tasks

China continues to report outbreaks of ASF this year, including three of the top five pork-producing regions in Henan, Sichuan and Shandong, where imports are expected to remain high in 2022. It is.

The USDA’s Overseas Agriculture Department predicts that China’s pork production will decline by 14% in 2022 earlier this year. This reflects the low herd of pigs and the low profits of domestic producers.

Imports in 2022 are projected to total 5.1 million tonnes, just below the record 5.28 million tonnes in 2020.

However, before the African swine fever outbreak, China imported only 1.5 to 2 million tonnes of pork annually, and industry sources expect imports to eventually slow down as cattle herds are rebuilt. ..

“This is one of the big challenges we face,” says Soler.

“Obviously, the Chinese market will sooner or later return to normal and return to pre-crisis figures. The purpose of maintaining production levels depends on the ability to open up new markets.”

Emma Pined, Michael Hogan, Nigel Hunt

Reuters

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