The pig market continues its run of stability, with sales underpinned by domestic demand, relatively tight supply and export demand.
However, producers are facing higher feed costs and uncertainty over the recovery of the foodservice sector.
Retail sales of bacon and sausages have been more than a fifth higher since the beginning of March than the same period last year, according to Kantar figures for AHDB.
Primary pork sales were 16.1 per cent higher last year, with sales of all three categories up 22.6 per cent to 198,300 tonnes. Demand has been higher every week since the middle of March – the week before lockdown happened.
Like other meats, pork sales were hit by the closure of restaurants and other foodservice outlets.
AHDB estimated 171,000t of pork sales or 14 per cent of the total were out of home in the year to June 2019.
If out of home sales were down by 75 per cent during the four months of lockdown, then that would have been nearly 43,000t of lost sales, which would have been greater than the increase in retail sales.
The reopening of pubs and restaurants will increase out of home pork sales, but it is likely that it will take time before demand returns to pre-Covid-19 levels.
In the first five months of 2020, 4.481 million reared clean pigs were slaughtered, according to Defra figures, which was 1 per cent more than the same period last year.
There were 99,000 sows and boars slaughtered during the five months, which was 5.6 per cent less than last year. May pig slaughtering was 12.3 per less at 801,200 head, with sow and boar throughput down 30.9 per cent in the month.
The pork export market held up during Covid-19, the latest figures suggest.
Exports in April were 2 per cent higher at 20,500t, according to HMRC data, with more than half of that trade to China, demonstrating how reliant the UK has become on sales to the country.
Imports during the month were nearly a third lower at 26,600t.
A tight market may support pig prices for the next few months, but producers face higher feed costs because of a smaller UK cereal harvest.