In its report, AHDB said that the overall pig population in the EU was down 2% in 2011, and 3% for the breeding herd.
“In much of the EU, the key factor has been the difficult financial situation facing the industry. High feed costs have meant that many producers have been in a loss-making position for most of the last year. This has particularly hit smaller, less efficient producers, many of whom have quit the industry.
“In addition, a large proportion of pig breeders in most member states have faced the challenge of complying with new welfare regulations, which come into force in January 2013, including the partial ban on the use of sow stalls. Many have decided to leave the industry or scale back production rather than make the necessary investment in group housing. Others have decided to move from breeding to finishing,” the organisation said, pointing out that the changes in gestation crate regulation had particularly affected Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Finland.
Only the Netherlands, Estonia and Romania have reported increases in pig numbers, with a 14% provisional rise in the latter, a result deemed “unlikely” by AHDB.
“Nevertheless, the Romanian pig industry has received significant foreign investment in recent years and the lifting of a ban on exports of pig meat to the rest of the EU may have encouraged expansion of the herd in anticipation of better export prospects,” it added.
AHDB pointed out that sow productivity has generally improved, resulting in a lesser decline in the fattening pig herd.