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EPP: Annual Conference Buzzes with Smithfield-Shuanghui Merger News

29 May 2013

DENMARK - The annual meeting of the European Pig Producers (EPP) started today at Vingsted in eastern Jutland, with a strong attendance from Europe and further afield. Senior editor, Jackie Linden, reports.

At the social event on the first evening of the EPP meeting, news came through of the merger of Smithfield Foods' pork business in the US with Hong Kong-based Shuanghui International. The two companies have agreed to a 'strategic combination'. According to the press release, the new leading global pork enterprise will have greater access to the large and growing Chinese market and retain world-leading food safety and quality control standards. [To read more on this story, click here.]

Today, more than 300 producers and others from across Europe gathered in Vingsted in eastern Jutland for the EPP's annual conference. Eighteen countries are represented including, for the first time, Thailand and China.

Following the Welcome from Henrik Refslund Hansen, Chairman of the Danish branch of EPP hosting the event and EPP President, Erik Thijssen, there was an overview of the general outlook for Danish agriculture. Torben Wiborg, Chief Consultant Development with the country's number 1 advisory service, LMO, said that 2012 had been a very good year for Danish pig producers.

He confirmed that producers must expect continued volatility in commodity markets although Danish producers are protected from the worst impacts of high and fluctuating feed ingredient prices as the majority most or all of their grain requirements.

Mr Wiborg stressed the difficulties ahead for those who want bank loans to buy into Danish agriculture or to remove equity from their farming business owing to the challenges of the banking sector and its focus on land values, which are falling.

In a session with the theme 'Quality Pays', Dr Nicolaj Nørgaard (Director of the Danish Pig Research Centre) outlined the country's pig industry structure and how his organisation supports it by providing a range of research and other information to improve further its physical and financial performance.

Pig farmer, Søren Søndergaard, explained to the audience how he expanded production on his family's farm over the last 10 years. He has increased the sow herd from 350 to 1,000. His original aim was to finish all the pigs produced but he considers the current balance of 75 per cent finished and 25 per cent sold as weaners to be a good balance for the time being.

The last presentation of the day offered a complete change of theme. Vice President of Corporate Quality for Lego, Cornelius Versluis, explained how the global toy company turned its business around after two years of losses around a decade ago.

After initially out-sourcing manufacturing for a couple of years, the company then brought  production back in house and returned to its original product focus, while maintaining quality "at any cost".

Sales and profits have recovered over recent years and 2012 was a particularly successful year for Lego. Key contributors to this success, according to Mr Versluis, are the development of a clean strategy, simplicity and then ensuring it is executed.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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