After a very difficult 2021 and 2022, the Irish pig industry recovered somewhat in 2023. In terms of national performance, primary pigmeat export volumes were back by 189,000 tonnes which was a 20% reduction on the 2022 figure.

In terms of primary pigmeat export value, the sector saw a reduction of €475m in exports, back 13% on the 2022 figure. This is well below the values in exports over the last five years.

Value-added exports were the only positive, increasing by 2%.

The total share of exports to international markets fell by a massive 52%. This figure is back from 64% in 2022. This was mainly due to weaker demand in international markets and the availability of competitive lower-priced product from North America and Brazil.

The value of exports to the UK rose by 41% in 2023, reflecting tight domestic and EU supplies. Irish pigmeat production declined by 11% in 2023 back to 224,000 tonnes. This was due to the fact that there was continued contraction in the sector, with a number of smaller operators ceasing production in 2023.

The live export of pigs was back by 350,000 head, or 11% on the 2022 figure, while domestic throughput was back by 9% to 3.23m head in 2023.

Pig producer prices hit record levels in 2023. On average, Irish pig carcase prices increased by 20% in 2023 to €2.14/kg. This allowed a return to profitability after a period of heavy losses in 2021 and 2022.

Prices peaked in quarter three of 2023 before trending downwards towards the end of the year.

The latest pig prices are just slightly behind spring 2023 prices with processor quotes of between €2.04/kg to €2.10/kg for the middle of February.

What is really helping pig farmers this year is the reduction in feed prices. Feed ingredient prices are back at December 2020 levels this spring, which will help to reduce costs of production on pig farms.

EU production

The EU-27 bloc remains the second largest global pigmeat producer and also the largest exporter. The EU saw a 7.6% decline in pig slaughterings in 2023, with both Denmark and the Netherlands seeing the largest reductions. Table 1 outlines the reductions seen in some of the main pig-producing countries across the EU.

EU export volumes were 20% lower compared to 2022 levels. The latest census of EU pig herds sees a further 1.6% decline in breeding sow numbers. EU pigmeat production is forecast to decline by a further 1.5% in 2024.


Tighter EU pigmeat supplies look set to continue into 2024, although some recovery is anticipated for pigmeat production in Ireland in 2024. Across the EU, production costs, regulation and disease issues will further reduce production. This could in time lead to surplus processing capacity in the sector.

EU exports to international markets are greatly impacted by lower-priced pigmeat from North America and Brazil and this trend looks set to continue in 2024.

Low profitability levels are causing contraction of Chinese and US breeding herds and this could have a positive impact on the international trade in the long term.

Consumer engagement will continue to be constrained by inflationary pressure in 2024.

In summary

  • Irish pigmeat export volumes were back by 20% in 2023.
  • Total share of exports to international markets fell by 54% in 2023.
  • Value of exports to the UK rose by 41%.
  • Irish pigmeat production fell by 11% in 2023.
  • Carcase prices increased by 20% to average €2.14/kg in 2023.
  • EU export volumes are down by 20% on 2022.
  • Feed prices back to December 2020 levels will help to reduce the cost of production in 2024.