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Spanish pig industry reaching record sizes

Spain has overtaken Germany as the country with the largest pig herd in the European Union (EU). The Spanish pig sector has grown strongly over the last few years and for now there is no end to this growth.

For years Germany used to be the EU's largest pig country. Spain did follow closely, but only in 2015 could it state to be Europe's largest. In absolute figures, the country had the most pigs. Figures by Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency, show that in 2015 the country housed 28.37 million pigs, a 6.7% year-on-year growth, see also Figure 1.

Continued growth in Spain's pig sector expected for 2016

It is expected that this tendency will continue in 2016. The number of sows in Spain totalled  2.47 million by the end of 2015, which was an increase of 109,000 in comparison to 2014.

This way Spain is continuing its growth. In 2005, the country counted 24.89 million pigs. Pig numbers have grown over the last 10 years by 14% to reach 28.37 million last year.

Pigmeat production in Germany

Despite Spain having the most pigs in 2015, Germany is the country producing the most pigmeat, see also Figure 2. The reason is simple: Germany's carcass weight is a lot higher than Spain's. Eurostat figures showed that Germany produced 5.56 million tonnes of pigmeat. The Spanish production reached 'only' 3.9 million tonnes – which by the way did mean a 7.7% year-on-year increase as in 2014 Spain produced 3.62 million.

Spain exports a large share of its pig meat

A large share of Spain's pig production is used for exports. In 2015, about 1.23 tonnes of pigmeat went abroad. France is the most important country for exports. In 2015, about 260,000 tonnes of pigmeat were imported from Spain, a 5% year-on-year increase. Spain also exports to Italy (139,200 tonnes) and Portugal (114,000 tonnes).

Exports to countries outside the EU grew by about 30% in 2015. Having done so, Spain – as well as Germany – have overtaken Denmark as the largest exporting country to these so-called 'third countries'. Export growth is mainly due to exports to China, as this country imported 72% more pigmeat from Spain than 1 year earlier. Apart from China, also Japan (72,700 tonnes) and South Korea (45,400 tonnes) are important markets for Spanish pigmeat.

More Spanish pigmeat to enter the world market

It is projected that more Spanish pigmeat will enter the world market. As the internal pig production market grows and domestic consumption decreases, more pigmeat will have to be exported. Just like the Germans and the Danish, 2 other large exporters in the EU, Spain shall also focus on exports to the Far East.

Frank Bussink

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