How COVID-19 and African swine fever are shaping the global pork market

The Chinese market has provided the UK pork sector with a ‘soft landing’ amid the global disruption to trade caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But with a complex mix of COVID-19, African swine fever (ASF) and political tensions currently shaping the outlook for the global pork market, the UK should pursue other export opportunities, particularly in Asia, according to Rupert Claxton, meat director at global consultants GIRA.

During an AHDB export webinar, he outlined the impact of the pandemic on economies across the world – GDP is down, for example, by nearly 8% in the EU, 7% in the US, 5% in Brazil, 7% in Thailand, 5% in Japan, with many other countries similarly affected.

The UK pork sector has largely ‘weathered the storm’ thanks to strong domestic demand and continuing high volumes of exports to China. However, the winding down of the furlough scheme in the UK over the coming months is likely to contribute to turning the disease crisis into economic crisis, with a knock-on effect for the meat industry, Mr Claxton said.

CME update: cattle futures stabilise amid further fall in beef prices

US live cattle futures stabilised on 8 June, reversing last week’s falls.

Reuters reports that US beef prices continue to weaken. The market is expected to remain under pressure as beef production continues to recover from COVID-19-related disruptions in April and May.

Meat processors slaughtered an estimated 117,000 cattle on 8 June, up from 110,000 a week earlier and down from 119,000 a year ago, according to the USDA.

Wholesale beef prices have dropped from historic highs as production has improved. The choice boxed beef cutout, an indicator of wholesale prices, fell to $256.33 per cwt on Monday, down $5.15 from Friday, when cutout dropped $10, according to the USDA.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) June live cattle futures settled up 0.225 cent at 94.125 cents per pound. The benchmark August contract rose 0.150 cents to 96.325 cents, after hitting a one-month low 5 June.

‘No basis’ for cattle price pressure amid stronger beef markets

There is no basis for pressure on cattle prices from the factories, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Commenting on the matter, IFA National Livestock Committee chairman Brendan Golden said:

“Prices are rising strongly in our main export market in the UK and also across EU markets – and the food service sector is coming back as the economy reopens,” he said.

Golden said there was no basis for factories to try to lower quoted beef prices as all of the market facts were pointing in the opposite, in a more positive direction.

Online bidding proves popular with livestock buyers

A move to introduce an online bidding system for livestock in response to the coronavirus pandemic has been hailed a success by ANM Group.

The north-east farmers’ co-operative, which operates livestock marts at Thainstone near Inverurie and Quoybrae in Caithness, launched an online bidding option for buyers in response to social distancing requirements.

Since introduced, the group has sold more than 16,000 store cattle and conducted a multi-breed pedigree bull sale, which attracted buyers from as far south as Cornwall.

“Our online bidding system is proving very successful with old and new customers joining the system every week to source all classes of livestock,” said John Angus, ANM head of livestock.

“We’ve consistently had in excess of 300 people simply viewing the sale in addition to those registered to bid.”

COVID-19 likely to affect beef industry into 2021

Pay attention to cattle price upswings; it may be time to avoid more losses and sell.

Cattle processing challenges continue to limit the amount of beef available to consumers. While daily slaughter levels have consistently improved, they have yet to approach levels that would match slaughter-ready cattle supplies, let alone begin to work through the backlog of cattle accumulated during the past two months.

This scenario continues to disrupt normal cattle marketing patterns. The recent monthly USDA Cattle on Feed report showed cattle placed into feedlots with at least 1,000-head capacity during April were more than 22% lower than the previous year for the second consecutive month.

April cattle slaughter recently was reported as nearly 600,000 head below the 2019 level, and estimated daily slaughter data for May points to a similar if not slightly larger decline.

Namibia’s beef exports to international markets not affected by COVID-19

WINDHOEK, June 1 (Xinhua) — Namibia’s beef exports to international markets have not been affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, a major beef export company said Monday.

According to Mwilima Mushokobanji, CEO of the Namibia state-owned meat processing firm Meatco, some of the countries hard hit by the pandemic have since closed their meat processing plants thus experiencing a deficit in food supply, which has resulted in a high demand for Namibia’s beef.

“Our logistical routes remain competent and open and we can still export to China, Norway and the United States through Capetown,” he said.

He said he however fears that export beef availability might reduce as farmers did not restock enough after the drought.

“This is going to be a tough year because the throughput has been very low because farmers de-stocked in bigger numbers last year so some of the farmers are busy rebuilding their herds,” he said.

Spanish pig meat exports still well up

Spain is the second largest pig meat exporter in Europe, and in the first quarter of 2020, volumes were up 14% (+79,000 tonnes) on a year earlier.

This was partly a reflection of higher production, which over the same period was up 4%, or 56,000 tonnes, compared with January-March 2019. In addition, despite reports of some difficulties, demand from the main export market, China, continued to be higher with volumes up 87% (+104,000 tonnes). Despite the coronavirus outbreak leading to congestion at Chinese ports, underlying import demand remains very strong as domestic production is still severely limited due to the African Swine Fever outbreak.

Conversely, exports to South Korea were 51% down (-12,000 tonnes), partly due to reduced demand as that country also tackles the coronavirus. This is only a small market for Spanish pig meat. France is a more important market for Spanish pork and these volumes also dropped by 10% (-7,000 tonnes). Consumer demand for pig meat in France was falling prior to any COVID-19-related disruption, and has been the long-term trend.

Although lower than the peak achieved in later 2019, export prices remained 27% higher than year earlier levels. When combined with the higher volumes, the total value of Spanish exports was up 45% on a year earlier at €1.78 billion.

The plant-based meat wars are hitting the courts

A European court just blocked Nestlé from naming its burger brand “Incredible.”

Bad news for anyone who uses to come up with brand names: Citing trademark concerns, a European court just blocked Nestlé from naming its plant-based burger line the “Incredible Burger.”

The problem? According to the court, the Incredible Burger sounds a bit too much like Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger.

Nestlé’s burger — which launched under the company’s meatless Garden Gourmet brand — has hit shelves in 15 European markets, plus Australia. Stateside, Nestlé sells a different product, made from pea protein — it’s called Awesome Burger.

Big changes for Louth Livestock Market’s auction days

Louth Livestock Market’s weekly market day have been moved from Thursday mornings to Monday afternoons.

The decision comes after ‘considerable thought’ from the directors of the market, which is operated by Masons in Louth, as they feel it will better fit into the schedule of regional weekday markets, which are concentrated into the first half of the week.

Simon Williams, managing director, said: “It has become clear to us in recent times that we need to take this decision to give the market the best chance of thriving, hence our decision to move the sale day to the beginning of the trading week, rather than leaving it as it is now, on a Thursday.”

He added: “As a key part of the food chain, livestock markets must adapt to current and fast changing trading conditions and as a relatively small provincial livestock market, we need to be flexible and innovative to best serve our farmer client base as they demand the best possible live weight prices.

Leap in spring lamb numbers

SPRING lambs continue to spring forward in much greater numbers at Skipton Auction Mart, the 1,498 forward this Monday by far the largest turnout of the season to date. They sold to an overall average of £97.43 per head, or 236.8p/kg

The welcome return of vendor prizes at the traditional monthly opener for the highest priced pens of ten or more Continental-cross lambs saw Darwen husband and wife, David and Laura Coar, present the top price per kilo pen of ten 48kg Beltex/Texel-cross, which made 255.8p/kg when claimed by Felliscliffe’s Andrew Atkinson.

Heading the gross prices at £125 each were 11 same way bred 52kg lambs from the Hammond family in Glasshouses, purchased by James Robertshaw for his Robertshaw’s Farm Shop in Thornton, Bradford.

Spring lamb vendors were looking to sell earlier than usual due to drier weather conditions, which became obvious when looking at the weight categories, with lambs as light as 30kg presented for sale, and just over 200 lambs on offer scaling 37kg or less, giving an overall sale average by weight of 41kg. This lighter weight of lamb still sold reasonably well, so long as well fleshed, with the 32-35kg’s averaging £234.3p/kg, or £80.82 per head.

At the other end of the weight scale, heavies were a good trade, with £120 to £130 a regular price range for fed lambs suitable for retail butcher and farm shop clients.