In this file:
· Uncertainty in EU pig market as key German plant closes
· The giant meatpacking company at the heart of Germany's new coronavirus hotspot
Uncertainty in EU pig market as key German plant closes
By Bethan Wilkins, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (UK)
23 June 2020
In the past few weeks, the pig market in Europe has stabilised, with reports of improving meat sales and tightening live pig supplies. The EU average pig reference price has hovered around €163/100kg since the end of May.
While the outlook had looked to be improving, there is now uncertainty around this. The closure of the large German processing plant in Rheda-Wiedenbruck, which has also been suspended from exporting to China, is a concern. The plant reportedly processes in excess of 100,000 pigs a week and it seems it will be closed for a few weeks, although this is unclear. Tonnies, who owns the plant, is apparently confident the pigs can be diverted elsewhere. However, it seems likely increased tightness in slaughter capacity will put downward pressure on prices in the coming week at least.
Germany is central to the European pork market and any price pressure is likely to have repercussions in other member states. Countries that export live pigs to Germany for slaughter may well face some difficulties, if these supplies prove difficult to divert. For the UK, the sow market may face pressure, with most of these carcases exported to Germany.
The suspension of the plant’s China approval could also prove a longer-term concern. It is not currently clear how long this will last, even when the plant does reopen. Access to China maximises carcase values, particularly at a time where EU demand is challenged by limitations on the foodservice industry. Other plants may need to increase their exports in order to maintain volumes overall.
We could also ask whether this suspension sets a new precedent for China’s meat import policy; is the intention now to suspend other sites with significant COVID-19 outbreaks? Reports indicate China has already increased inspections of imported meat, following the cluster of coronavirus infections linked to a wholesale market in Beijing. Plants in the US and Brazil may be particularly vulnerable if this course of action is pursued, with many plants in these regions suffering serious outbreaks. Clearly though, the EU is also not immune to these difficulties.
Ultimately, China is still acutely short of pork. So far this year, large imports and releases from state reserves have been used in an attempt to reduce the high domestic pork prices, with some success. Any action that limits the import supply ultimately risks pushing pork prices up again. However, at the moment, preventing recurrence of COVID-19 is also a priority. Although it is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging, according to the World Health Organisation, caution over imported meat may well be another challenge facing suppliers to the Chinese market this year.
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The giant meatpacking company at the heart of Germany's new coronavirus hotspot
By Hanna Ziady, Stephanie Halasz and Ivana Kottasová, CNN Business
via WICZ-TV (NY) - Jun 23, 2020
A fresh coronavirus outbreak in Germany has placed the country's massive meat processing industry under intense scrutiny, after more than 1,500 workers were infected at a family-owned slaughterhouse in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Officials said Tuesday that 1,553 workers at the meatpacking plant owned by Germany's Tönnies Group have tested positive for coronavirus — up from 1,331 on Sunday. The plant is situated in Gütersloh, a city in the west of the country, which is now reintroducing lockdown restrictions until the end of June.
The outbreak had already prompted the closure of daycare centers and schools in the district and the Robert Koch Institute, a public health body, linked a spike in Germany's overall coronavirus reproduction rate directly to the plant. Armin Laschet, the prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, announced Tuesday that restaurants, bars and gyms in Gütersloh district would close for a week. Outdoor gatherings of more than two people are again prohibited.
The plant owned by Tönnies is one of several meat processing factories now facing scrutiny after coronavirus outbreaks highlighted the poor working and living conditions faced by the industry's many foreign workers. Germany has been relatively successful in fighting the coronavirus, but there have been several outbreaks at slaughterhouses in the past month that threaten to undermine the gradual reopening of its economy.
Clemens Tönnies, a managing partner at the company, said on Twitter that the company will fund widespread coronavirus testing in Gütersloh to compensate the local community. He apologized for the outbreak and said the company carried full responsibility.
Tönnies, which exports about half its products, has 16,500 employees worldwide and generated revenue of €6.7 billion ($7.5 billion) in 2018. Founded in 1971 by Clemens' late brother Bernd Tönnies, the company produces 850 tons of frozen and fresh meat a day and is Germany's single biggest pork processor, with 27% of the market. Tönnies slaughters tens of millions of pigs each year.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the the global meat processing industry especially hard. Workers often labor in close quarters, and for relatively meager wages, leaving them more exposed to the virus. In the United States, thousands of industry workers have tested positive for coronavirus and dozens have died.
In Germany, federal labor minister Hubertus Heil told German tabloid Bild that he had "pretty much zero" trust in Tönnies. He said that the exploitation of people from Central and Eastern Europe has "obviously" taken place at the company's plants.
According to German labor union NGG, 70% to 80% of Tönnies' 7,000 factory workers are employed through subcontractors and made to work long hours. At some meatpacking plants, staff work 12 to 14 hours a day but only get paid for eight hours, NGG spokesman Jonas Bohl told CNN Business. "Tönnies is no different here," he said...