Sweden sees fall in pork imports

By Poorna Rodrigo

- Last updated on GMT

The Swedish pig industry has been adversely impacted by recent media reports
The Swedish pig industry has been adversely impacted by recent media reports

Related tags Pork imports Pork Meat Sweden

Bad publicity in Sweden for the pig meat sector in the past year – including television programmes critical of industry welfare and public debates over the heavy usage of antibiotics and tail-docking of piglets in the European Union (EU) – have depressed Swedish pork imports. 

These dropped 10% during the first six months of 2015 compared with the same period last year, an expert from the government-run Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) has told GlobalMeatNews​. 

Sweden imported 64,303 tonnes (t) of pork during the first six months of 2014 and the amount dropped to 58,332t during the same period this year​,” board policy analyst Åsa Lannhard Öberg told GlobalMeatNews​. 

This follows a 6% year-on-year fall in the first six months of 2014, a downward trend intensified later in 2014 when Swedish media widely discussed the over-use of antibiotics, tail docking of piglets and the danger of MRSA in imported pork: “All in all we can draw the conclusion the Swedish consumers opted for locally produced pork over imported cheap meat​,” she said. 

Sweden’s high animal welfare standards have also played a part: the country does not allow tail- docking and pigs are allocated larger space than in many countries and Sweden use the least amount of antibiotics in meat production within Europe. On top of that, the role of retail chains was crucial: “They began to substitute imported pork meat with those locally produced and retailers are an important factor linked to consumer preferences​,” she said. 

Margareta Åberg, pig​ sector expert for the Federation​ of Swedish​ Farmers (Lantbrukarnas Riksförbund) agreed that when “consumers reacted to the TV series​” showing the ill effects of imported pork, it led retailers to “replace imported bacon​” with locally produced product. For example, ICA, one of the largest retail chains in Sweden has seen a sharp rise in Swedish meat products. “The share of Swedish meat in ICA’s sales is now 89% in cuts and 75% in processed meat products​,” the company said in a note. It added that the company’s effective cooperation with farmer associations had helped boost Sweden-produced meat sales. 

Sweden’s pork imports had been growing since it joined the EU in 1995. In 2011, Sweden imported 116,710t of pork products, compared to 122,822t in 2014, said Öberg. But she reckoned the recent fall in imports was also a trend: “I see no reason to fear that it will suddenly just turn back to the old pattern​,” Öberg said, adding that Sweden was “in the middle of a health trend​”. For example, the demand for organic food is increasing substantially in Sweden at the moment. “So I think Swedish pork has a bright future​,” she said. 

That said, there are concerns over the price difference of cheap pork imports and those locally produced. And if this price gap widens further, it could depress demand, she argued adding: “The same is true for beef. We have a strong demand for Swedish beef at the moment even though prices are historically high but they cannot rise forever without a slowdown in demand​.” 

Åberg said increasing the number of new farms was important: “We have to continue a strong domestic market for Sweden and get a stronger export market to third countries​.” 

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