Overview of This Week’s Pig Industry News

12 March 2012, at 11:48pm

ANALYSIS – Ever more red tape seems to be tying up the pig industry, according to reports from the US and EU in the last week, writes senior editor, Jackie Linden. The organic food sector appears to be booming despite the economic worries. Signs of foot and mouth diseases have been reported in Zambia (in cattle) and in Taiwan.

Over–regulation may be limiting US food production. Cutting red-tape and reducing regulatory burdens are common themes that producers are eager to see put into practice.

However, in reality, the industry is ever more tied down by red tape. A new report from the United Soybean Board suggests that over–regulation is becoming a threat to US livestock production.

Laws and regulations imposed by federal, state and local governments can make domestic farmers and ranchers uncompetitive with overseas competitors and drive them out of business, says the report.

It adds that the regulatory areas most likely to generate increased costs for US producers in the near term are animal housing, environmental regulations, the use of antimicrobials and other drugs, livestock trading and labour regulations.

The red tape issue is not confined to the US. At a high-level debate on the future CAP held by European Parliament, the EU farmers’ association, Copa-Cogeca, warned of excessive red-tape governing the EU Commission proposals on the CAP post-2013. The group stressed this will hinder competitiveness and threaten the economic viability of farmers, cooperatives and small businesses.

USDA estimates of the 2011 and 2012 pig crop and slaughter figures for the EU have been adjusted upwards, based on higher–than–expected breeding efficiency, likely caused by the restructuring of the industry. The agency confirms, however, that despite the latest spike, the longer–term trend continues to be downward.

As US producers increase the sow herd in response to better returns, profitability will again turn downward in the medium term, according to the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.

One area of food production seems to be bucking the trend: that of organics. Despite the tough economic times, the organic market is growing and going against the trend of generally falling sales, cuts and reduced expenditure.

The latest figures issued by the Soil Association in the UK and Organic Monitor show that in 2010 sales of organic products rose by eight per cent and by 228 per cent since 2000. Worldwide sales were valued at US$59 billion or around €44.5 billion in 2010 and were showing strong growth in all the major European markets as well as the US.

Farmers in the Mpumalanga region of South Africa have been warned that they face a threat of African swine fever following the disposal of the carcasses of infected pigs in a local river.

Turning to zoonotic disease, local sources report that a number of people in the north of Bangladesh have died from Nipah virus. The latest cases appear to be related to consumption of raw date juice. The disease also affects pigs, a factor that is unlikely to play a role in the predominantly Muslim country.

And finally, to news of foot and mouth disease (FMD). From Zambia, there is a report of an outbreak in cattle in Northern Mwamba Kaka, and the Taiwanese veterinary authorities have reported finding FMD-positive pigs from three farms in two regions during routine surveillance.