Sydney Show Suggests Pig Industry is Rebuilding

by 5m Editor
21 April 2011, at 9:42am

AUSTRALIA - Pig numbers at the Sydney Royal Easter Show have increased this year, suggesting the worst is over for pig producers. Up to 50 per cent of producers left the industry because of the introduction of imported pig meat from Denmark, lower prices for pigs and demands by the big retailers, who want producers to phase out sow stalls.

Chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society pig committee, Paul Hassab, says when the Royal Easter Show was still being held at Moore Park, they used to get 1,200-1,300 pigs attending.

"Those days are gone, and the number of pigs being exhibited got down to just 50 three to four years ago," he said.

"Now we've got about a dozen exhibitors and just over 300 pigs, and if we can maintain that, it would be great."

According to ABC, David Middleton, who has been a producer for 40 years, says in the north and north-west of NSW, 600 piggeries have shut down over the last five years.

"There are big changes underway and most producers have had enough," he said.

"There's not enough money it in, it costs a lot to change, so many are retiring.

"It will take a big change to move pigs from dry sow stalls to group houses.

"We don't use them...and pigs are not always happier ranging free."

Mr Middleton thinks that despite the problems, things are turning around for producers, with consumers keen to buy Australian pork.

"Woolworths have got behind us quite a bit and a lot of the local butchers are really getting behind it and I think it's working.

"We're certainly trying, but I don't think we're going to push those imports out."

Despite the increased numbers at the Royal Easter, the auction did not go well.

Mr Middleton sold one boar for $750, but he's not dissatisfied.

"If you think you're going to show and make money, you don't. You do it for the pleasure and the prestige.

"There's a show at Gunnedah at the end of the month and we usually sell them all there."

Brian Badgery, RAS councillor for pigs, says the auction was "disappointing".

"It's been very hard work, I'm sorry to say.

"There's a lot of interest in the coloured pigs, but generally not a lot of movement.

"The prices are reasonable, but maybe people are holding off to close a deal by private treaty."

Only two pigs were sold and the top price was $750, well below the $3000 record set in the late 1980s.

Auctioneer Mike Brady says there aren't many pig producers in Sydney and it's not surprising the selling was slow.

They switched to an open auction this year, but will probably return to a private selling arrangement next year.

Overall, Mr Hassab says the quality of the pigs at the show is the "best we've seen for 8-10 years".