At first glance, the numbers do not look like a crisis: Germany's farmers keep almost 25 million pigs, and the average consumer eats almost 33 kilograms of pork a year.

Whether as schnitzel, sausages or ham: pork is still by far the most popular type of meat.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult for producers to earn money with it.

Slaughter pigs were last traded for 1.25 euros per kilogram, according to the figures from the Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft (AMI).

For comparison: at the end of 2019 there was still 1.95 euros.

Julia Löhr

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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There are two reasons for the drop in prices.

On the one hand, meat consumption is falling in Germany, not much, but noticeably.

The proportion of vegetarians has doubled within a year, from 5 to 10 percent.

People who eat meat tend to eat poultry more often.

At the same time, exports, which are so important for pig farmers, are weakening.

After cases of African swine fever also occurred in Germany, China stopped its imports.

The animal disease is harmless to humans, but deadly for pigs.

Less demand, both at home and abroad: the farmers cannot reduce their stocks as quickly as it actually needs to be.

The result is a "pig jam" that has long been a concern not only for the industry, but also for politics.

Klöckner invites you to an industry discussion

For this Wednesday Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) invited to a crisis summit, whereby the ministry formulated the matter more cautiously: “Industry talk meat” is the official title. In addition to animal owners, representatives from the trade and the food industry should also be there. The agriculture ministers of the two federal states, in which around 60 percent of the German pig population are kept together, are also invited: Ursula Heinen-Esser from North Rhine-Westphalia and Barbara Otte-Kinast from Lower Saxony, both CDU.

The farmers hope to get financial support from the meeting.

However, Klöckner's ministry has made it clear that it sees little scope for a national aid program due to the rules of the European internal market.

This must be discussed at EU level.

The statisticians of the AMI also write in their latest market report that this is not just a German, but a European problem.

In almost all countries the demand for meat and with it the marketing of pigs for slaughter stalled.

The cold stores kept filling up.

The search for the long-term solution to the pig problem

At least since the beginning of the corona pandemic, it has been clear: Germany has a pig problem. As the restaurants and canteens have been closed for many months, demand has continued to decline. At the end of last year, the prices for slaughter pigs were a little lower than they are today. The fact that the Federal Minister of Agriculture invites you to a crisis talk now, of all times, could have something to do with the federal election in a week and a half. In 2017, according to an analysis by the Elections Research Group, the Union was still able to win 61 percent of the votes of farmers. But the absolute majority is shaky: In a survey by an agricultural specialist portal, the FDP was ahead in the spring. The tightened fertilizer ordinance and the insect protection package of the grand coalition have annoyed many farmers over the long term.The pig talk of the three CDU ministers can therefore also be understood as a signal to this professional group: We see your problems, we take care.

Theoretically, retailers could also solve the congestion by themselves by stimulating demand with special offers, so that the stocks move from the cold stores of the butcher to the freezers of the consumers. But at a time when cheap meat is socially and politically frowned upon and the trade is already being criticized for leaving farmers with hardly any money to live on, such a step would amount to an advertising disaster. And he would only solve the problem for a short time. The conversation should therefore primarily be about long-term measures. In the Netherlands, the government is already paying a kind of scrapping premium for pigsties in order to reduce the population. It is quite possible that this will also be an issue here in the upcoming coalition negotiations.