According to data from Spanish tax office Agencia Tributaria, exports of fresh and frozen pork by volume were down 2% in the first half of 2017 after an increase of 27% in the equivalent period last year and 18% in 2016 as a whole.
The decline has been attributed to a combination of factors, including only a marginal increase in pig meat production, good domestic demand helped by increased tourism, increased pig prices and a downturn in Chinese demand.
The increase in Spanish pig slaughterings and production was less than 1% year-on-year in the first half of 2017, as the supply of pigs has become more stable.
The country has also reduced its exports of slaughter pigs to Portugal.
The average export price was up by 20% year-on-year during the period, partly due to increased pig prices in Spain and the EU as a whole.
As with most other EU exporters, it was the downturn in the Chinese market that was the main factor behind the fall in volumes, with trade down by 25% on the year during the first half of 2017.
In addition, there was a small fall, of 3%, in exports to France, which is now once again Spain’s main market for pork. In contrast, there was further marked growth, of 16%, in shipments to the UK in spite of the weaker sterling. Chilled cuts, led by boneless, account for two-thirds of trade with the UK.
Looking ahead, the short-term outlook for the Spanish market seems to indicate the situation won’t be changing.
Spain had an exceptionally hot summer, which slowed down the finishing of pigs and lowering carcase weights. This is now changing with increased supplies of pigs coming forward, given cooler weather at a time when demand is starting to suffer from the end of the main tourist season.
This is likely to put pressure on Spanish exporters to supply more to the EU market, including possibly the UK. Pig numbers are expected to increase given the good profitably since the middle of last year.