Are we going to be buried by a kind of ‘avalanche of piglets’ sliding in from Denmark? - A comment by Thomas Bröker, member of the ISN Advisory Council

An anticipated 3 million piglets will be imported into Germany from Denmark this year. With regard to 2006, the Danes expect to be able to increase this figure to even 3.5 million pigs.

Why is that? On the one hand, the Danes’ profitability in pig fattening has been very unsatisfying over the past two years. But then again, the Danish pig feeders are even more obliged to have land available than the Germans are. For that reason, many pig feeders abandoned pig feeding and started keeping sows.

Next year, more and more piglets from the Netherlands, too, will be imported into Germany. For as soon as the Netherlands will be reported to be free from the Aujetzki disease, the Dutch also want to and will get onto the German piglet market ever more forcefully.

As a consequence, this development will lead to much more pressure being exerted on the German piglet market. I however doubt that the Danes will be able to maintain their market shares here in Germany for longer periods. For I do wonder indeed how the Danes are going to commercialize their special offers in a lucrative way over here, with their piglet prices considerably falling below the German prices in parts. At least, they must pay higher prices for transport. But even with being in such difficult situation, they plan to increase their sow stocks …

After all, it seems to be impossible that the Danes produce at lower prices, because they are being obliged to obey similar – if not even harder – general framework than we are. So, they are no different from anybody else. I would not dare to envision what might be the consequences for the Danish pig feeders if any case of epidemic were reported about, resulting in export bans, for instance.

But what consequences will the German sow keepers have to prepare for?
We will have to prepare for coping with even quicker structural changes resulting from the increased number of piglets on offer. The way I see it, many small farms (producing lots of less than 100 piglets) will fall victim to such structural changes. For those farms, the so-called closed system might be an alternative to seize. But large farms, located in former East Germany, which do not show top productive capacities and at the same time produce at much too high prices, will also be affected by the situation. Size alone is not enough!

Whoever wants to survive in sow keeping will have to show competitive stock sizes at above-average capacities and optimum cost structure. And at this point, running the right health management is of utmost importance, too.

If we do manage the situation, we won’t have to fear piglet imports from either Denmark or the Netherlands. Our successful farms (+ 25 %) have proved for a long time yet that the German sow feeders are able to produce excellent quality at favourable prices.

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