Spanish pork exports to Asian markets may see boost after German ASF outbreak

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Celiaaa
© GettyImages/Celiaaa

Related tags ASF covid-19

During the first five months of 2020, the volume of Spanish pork exports grew by 11% fueled by record-level exports to China, finds newly released data.

And the recent outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Germany may further expand Spanish pork exports to Asian markets, according to a USDA FAS report.

Spanish pork production is expected to continue growing in 2020 and 2021, driven by strong pork exports, said the authors of that review.

The Spanish pork industry was not hit by a significant number of positive COVID-19 cases, and pork capacity at the Spanish pork facilities was not affected.

During the first semester of 2020 and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Spanish pork exports to non-EU countries remained strong albeit facing high competition in the global pork market, with China in the lead in terms of demand, reported the USDA team.

On April 8, 2020, China approved eight new Spanish pork establishments for export, increasing the total number of eligible Spanish establishments to 57. During the first semester of 2020, Spain shipped to China 18% of Spanish pork production. The data shows its exports to China grew by 121% in volume and 191% in value to US$856.5m in that period compared to the prior year period, they wrote.

Conversely, in this period, Spanish pork exports to the US market dropped almost 80% in volume and 53% in value to US$10.3m.

“The decline in exports was primarily due to additional US tariffs on frozen pork in response to the WTO case against EU aircraft subsidies and the temporary pause of the hospitality sector due to COVID-19.”

Spanish swine production and slaughter 

In 2019, Spanish swine production and slaughter reached new record levels with almost 53 million hogs slaughtered and 4.6 million tons of pork meat, which represented an increase of 1.3 and 2.4% respectively.

The piglets/sow ratio stands at 27 for Spanish white pigs and 13 to 15 for Iberico sows, giving an average of 21 piglets per sow. In 2020, total swine herd and sows continued to grow.

According to Spanish official data, during the first semester of 2020, swine slaughter continued its growing trend, increasing 3.2% and pork meat production increased 5.5%. In 2020, according to Spanish pork sources, total swine slaughter may stand at 54 million and pork meat production at 4.7 million tons.

Spanish industry observers estimate that, for 2021, Spanish swine production will continue to increase slightly by 0.75% as the expected growth in white pig production will compensate for the drop in the Iberico pig sector. This may result in 54.4 million animals slaughtered and 4.8 million tons of pork with record carcass weight levels.

Source: USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) report, Spanish Livestock and Poultry Sector Update​. September 30, 2020

Implications of German ASF outbreak

On September 10, Germany confirmed a positive case of ASF in a wild boar. The USDA team said this development may result in a reduction of swine and pork prices in the EU and disrupt the current trade flow.

“China and other Asian countries have already banned imports of German pork meat which may further expand Spanish pork exports to these countries.”  

However, they noted also that a surplus of German pork meat in the EU may negatively impact Spanish pork exports to other European countries.

To avoid a massive influx of lower-priced imports of live swine for slaughter, they outlined how the Spanish government intends to tighten control measures at the border to maintain the health of the Spanish hogs. The authorities there also announced they will take steps to ensure that pork meat from Germany is not diverted through Spain, to avoid any serious consequences for Spanish exports.

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