According to the latest projections by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences at its annual outlook conference, the 12 months to March 2012 will see an increase in sow numbers to 307,000, so that slaughters rise to 4.71 million pigs per year and production grows to 338,000 metric tons. The expectations for 2015-2016 are an inventory of 329,000 sows supporting a slaughter total of 4.99 million pigs and 355,000 metric tons of pork produced nationally.

The numbers represent a gradual recovery after decreases over the past 10 years. The number of breeding sows in Australia fell from 356,000 in 2002 to 269,000 in 2010 and pig slaughters fell accordingly, from 5.6 million animals per year to under 4.6 million. The volume of pork produced annually dropped from 407,000 metric tons to 330,000 metric tons.

The driving force for expansion will be relatively high retail prices for the competing meats of beef and lamb, although producers locally also will gain from a projected lowering of feed grain prices that combines with improved productivity to lower their production costs. Imports currently account for about 70% of the processed pig meat market in Australia. ABARES analysts expect around 138,000 metric tons to be imported in 2011-2012 and a further rise to 155,000 metric tons by 2015-2016 as a relatively high exchange rate for the Australian dollar maintains the competitiveness of imports.