UK - The whole of the UK pig sector must work together if it is to make the industry more profitable, said Mick Sloyan, AHDB Pork Strategy Director, speaking at the 2016 Pig and Poultry Fair in Stoneleigh Park, writes Lucy Towers, ThePigSite Editor.
The past year has been very difficult for the British pig industry. In just a few years the UK pig price has fallen from 164p/kg in 2014 to 113.8p/kg in 2016.
Supermarkets have been moving away from special offers to everyday low pork prices and pork is facing stiff competition from other meats.
There has also been pressure from low EU pig prices which has resulted in the net price to producers being roughly 6p/kg and producers are losing around £16 per pig, Mr Sloyan explained.
EU pig prices have suffered from the closing of the Russian market to pork due to African Swine Fever worries.
Another threat to British farmers is the scrutiny it faces by activist groups over production systems. The British pig industry is proud of its reputation for having high welfare indoor and outdoor production systems and pig producers should be confident in saying this.
Similarly, there is now increased consumer concern with antimicrobial resistance. We need to be able to demonstrate that we are using antibiotics responsibly, said Mr Sloyan.
The new electronic medicines book should help to do this as it will clearly monitor and show use.
Mr Sloyan noted that the book is already looking successful and by May half of UK pig producers should be in there.
However, despite the challenging situation faced by farmers, Mr Sloyan noted that the majority of pig producers are remaining in business.
In more a more positive light, the export market for UK pork and offal is growing, especially in China where pig ears are currently selling at £2.70 per kilo.
Work is also continuing to expand the number of abattoirs that can export to China and also to get access for trotters.
Mr Sloyan explained that abattoirs are currently implementing new microbiological testing required for Chinese approval.
In terms of the domestic market, the pulled pork campaign has done very well.
Productivity has also increased in the UK with 2015 pig meat production at a 15 year high. The industry is working hard to close the productivity gap with competitors, especially in breeding herd performance.
To conclude, Mr Sloyan reflected on the market situation 15 years ago when farmers were experiencing low prices and increased costs, leading to a lack of confidence/investment.
Now, the industry has better returns, increased productivity and more investment, he said.
By working together and continuing to innovate, the industry will become more profitable and will come out of the current trough, Mr Sloyan concluded.