Cranswick exports surge after swine fever epidemic devastates Asia

British pork giant Cranswick has reported a surge in exports after African swine fever decimated pig herds in far east Asia.

Exports in China and the far east surged 16% as prices were also driven higher by the epidemic in the world’s biggest pork market.

The deadly disease spread across China since it was first reported in August, with widespread culls devastating production in the region.

The firm said the effects of the disease on the far east could continue for “more than three years”, but that it expects pricing to stabilise over the coming months.

Revenue slipped 1.9% to £1.44 billion in the year to March 2019 as the company faced “a backdrop of highly competitive market conditions and ongoing, Brexit-related, political and economic uncertainty”.

Cranswick was buoyed by exports across all regions, which increased by 3.1% year on year.

Like-for-like fresh pork revenues dipped by 3.8% due to lower wholesale and export demand in the first half of the year, although it was buoyed by a strong summer barbecue season, Cranswick said.

The group’s poultry arm delivered 18% year-on-year sales growth, with sales of “ready to eat” chicken growing faster than the wider meat sector.

Pre-tax profits also marginally declined over the period, falling to £86.5 million from £88 million in the previous year.

Margins are expected to contract during the current year on the back of economic uncertainty and significant investment in its new poultry factory in Suffolk.

Adam Couch, chief executive officer, said: “The last year was one of consolidation following three years of very strong growth.

“We invested at record levels across our asset base and made further strong progress against our strategic objectives.

“I am confident that continued focus on the strengths of our business, which include its long-standing customer relationships, breadth and quality of products, robust financial position and industry leading infrastructure, will support the further successful development of Cranswick over the longer term”.