Travel through the maze of the pork market

From the end of the summer of 2021 to the middle of February 2022, the free magazines of the large retail chains multiplied campaigns on fresh pork. The pork chop was often sold for € 1.99 per. kilo, while the price price for a kilo carcass from the same slaughtered and taken pig was between € 1.20 and € 1.25 on the Plérin watch market. The pork roulade, a kind of fresh ham ready to roast in the oven, cost less than € 3 per person. kilos and other appetizing cuts were also very cheap.

To understand the origin of these sold prices from the summer of 2021 to February 2022, it is necessary to examine the consequences of the globalization of trade on prices. Before the summer of 2021, China imported a lot of pork from EU member states. These imports followed the massive slaughter carried out on Chinese livestock in 2019 and 2020 to eradicate African swine fever, which had hit farms hard. After fully rebuilding its herd in mid-2021 with a 28.8% year-on-year increase in pork production, China reduced its imports by 29%. As a result, the price fell per. kilos of carcasses to below the € 1.25 mark in September in Plérin after exceeding € 1.50 between May and August.

And suddenly an increase in prices at Plérin

With the decline in Chinese imports, competition within Europe suddenly intensified between the main exporting countries, which are Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Poland, France and Belgium. At the slaughterhouses in these countries, stocks of fresh meat increased over the weeks, and sales at a loss were preferable to freezing, as supply would be permanently higher than demand. In Leclerc stores in Île-de-France, campaigns on pork were very numerous and featured on several pages in two brochures a month on average. We imagine that these campaigns favored “smart purchases”, including for freezing, in households that could afford it, which is hardly the case for all those whose end of the month is difficult to make.

But now the kilo price of pig carcasses went from € 1.24 on 21 January to € 1.52 in Plérin on 21 March to reach € 1.68 to € 1.69 at the end of April. As of March 11, this same pig butcher was priced at € 1.90 in Germany compared to € 1.25 in early February. Two reasons together explain this marked increase in the price of pork after being too low to make French breeders lose € 30 per head. fat pig. The latter then sold breeding sows for the sole purpose of limiting the loss of income by reducing the herds of slaughter pigs. As a result, the number of fattening pigs and sows decreased by 3.4% and 3.8% respectively in the EU Member States.

At the same time, the governments of several European countries, questioned by the unions of crisis-stricken farmers, ended up having the European Commission fund a campaign for the private storage of pork, which was set up from 25 March to 29 April. On 6 April, 22,426 tonnes of pork had been withdrawn from the market. 16,629 tons of this meat came from Spain, Holland and Denmark, which have the specialty of feeding their pigs imported food, including a lot of soybeans from South America and corn from different countries, which significantly increases the balance carbon from pig farms in these countries.

The Chassaigne Act, the only positive measure for the five-year period

In France, there are many pig farms in the regions of Brittany and the Pays de la Loire. “Given the increase in grain prices, the cost of production for farmers will reach € 2 per kilo in the coming weeks,” the farmers’ unions at the FNSEA and the young farmers in these two regions said by 4 May. We then recall that President Macron made the following promise to farmers on 11 October 2017 in Rungis: “We will change the law to reverse this construction of the price, which must be able to start from production costs”. A first Egalim law was passed in 2018 to, allegedly, make this promise a reality. But it was to no avail, to the point that another law called Egalim 2 was passed in the fall of 2021. Because we were a few months away from the April 2022 presidential election and the June parliamentary election. This second law gave only poor results in the annual negotiations between distributors and their suppliers on prices. To the point that we are currently trying to renegotiate, with no luck at the moment.

Finally, during the five-year period ending in the National Assembly, only two pieces of legislation were favorable to the peasants. They were presented and defended by the Communist deputy André Chassaigne on improving the pensions of agricultural managers, then cooperating spouses and family helpers. Both could be voted on at the end of 2021. A farmer who has retired since 2002 told us that his pension had gone from € 854 per month in 2021 to € 1,034 in 2022 thanks to these two texts, i.e. an increase of more than 20%. It is good to keep in mind when the parliamentary elections on 12 and 19 June are approaching.

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