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EPP 2012: Markets, Developments for the Future

1 June 2012, at 6:20pm

ANALYSIS - The second day of the Congress for the European Pig Producers (EPP) association, yesterday (31 May) started with an overview of the prospects for the global pig meat market, followed by presentations to help solve the challenges the industry is facing, writes senior editor, Jackie Linden.

In his presentation giving a global overview for pork consumption, production and trade, director of the British Pig Executive, Mick Sloyan, stressed the present and growing strength of China in the markets. Of the expected world production of pig meat this year, for example, China is estimated to account for around 50 per cent. Behind China come the 27 countries of the EU (EU-27) and the US.

In terms of consumption, China also eats about half of global pig meat. Not only is this a vast market, Mr Sloyan pointed out that as the economy develops and the people become wealthier and move ever more to the cities, demand for meat there is set to grow quickly. As a result, the country will need to import more pig meat and/or feed ingredients to meet demand.

Pig meat output for 2012 is forecast to increase 2.6 per cent from last year to 112 million tonnes, with a further rise likely for 2013 owing to expansion in China. Production in Japan and South Korea is recovering after last year‘s earthquake/tsunami and a major outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD), respectively. Expansion is also forecast in South America, led by growing local demand, and as the result of government incentives in Russia.

Turning his attention to the EU, Mr Sloyan said that although pig numbers were well down in the 2011 census compared to the year before, productivity has improved such that pig meat output was hardly changed from 2010. The economic recession has hit the individual markets differently but the gathering storm of the Euro–crisis is likely to impact the market considerably, making exports of pig meat more competitive but feed prices even higher.

Finally, Mr Sloyan addressed the likely market impacts of the partial ban on sow stalls, which comes into effect on 1 January 2013. He said that a recent report from his organisation, BPEX, indicates that the most likely scenario is a decline in sow numbers in those countries where compliance with the new rules is not yet complete. This is expected to lead to a five per cent reduction in pig meat output and an eight to 10 per cent increase in prices.

Notifiable Pig Disease Threats for Baltic Countries’ was the topic addressed by Professor Kazimieras Lukauskas, Lithuanian representative of the World Organisation from Animal Health (OIE). He stressed the need for the early detection of significant and notifiable diseases, risk management and transparent communication. He indicated that the slow recognition of African swine fever (ASF) in Georgia and later in the Russian Federation have contributed to the disease becoming established in those regions and threatening neighbouring countries.

As a Lithuanian representative at the OIE, he outlined the organisation’s new challenges, which include emerging infectious diseases, of which those with human health implications pose the greatest risks. Those that also involve wildlife are even more challenging.

There has been a paradigm shift in OIE's approach, said Professor Lukauskas, from an emphasis on a country's freedom for a particular disease to a risk-based approach, which involved the separation of th animal population into sub-populations with different health status. Although the ultimate goal is still the reduction of these disease, he stressed, the new recommendations are based on risk reduction measures for specific commodities. This approach, he said, is a compromise to keep trade as free as possible while limiting the risk of spreading diseases further.

Turning to practical matters, veterinarian, Dr Anne Jørgensen of the Norwegian Health Service, Animalia, covered farm management practices to reduce both pig disease and antibiotic use. She stressed the importance of attention to detail, particularly in terms of biosecurity on the farm and management of the animals to keep diseases out of the farm and to minimise stress.

Vaccination, she said is a helpful tool but it should not be seen as an alternative to high hygiene standards. Antibiotics, she concluded, should be used responsibly in order to preserve the efficacy of those available for veterinary purposes as long as possible and to minimise the risk of bacteria developing antimicrobial resistance and becoming ineffective in human medicine.

With growing demand for food from the human population and rising feed costs, Dr Bjarne Holm of Norwegian pig genetics company, Norsvin, highlighted the somewhat neglected area of maternal pig lines. While much effort has been put on the development of terminal sire lines for meat production efficiency and quality, his company has been focussing on the dam line.

He reported good progress by selecting for improved rearing capacity and more uniform litters, and how these characteristics impact performance right through to the finishing period.

Dr Bjarne highlighted two important features of the Norwegian pig industry, which have driven his company's selection strategy there. Firstly, comparing costs of production in Norway with other countries, it appears that feed costs alone there are higher than the total cost for a finishing pig in Denmark, let alone the US and Brazil. Secondly, weaning is much later than in other countries at typically 32 to 35 days. Norsvin is also active in other countries and the nucleus units elsewhere focus on the traits that most impact pig production and efficiency under local conditions.

The prospects for using waste air purification systems in pig houses as a vehicle for mitigating negative public opinion of pig farming in the neighbourhood was addressed by Nico Ogink of Wageningen University Research in the Netherlands. He outlined the environmental and health impacts of ammonia, odours and dust and described the types of systems available.

He concluded that air treatment technology is essential for the future of the intensive livestock industry in the EU. Current technology for the removal of odours and fine dust need to be improved, he said, so that their efficacy is improved and the cost reduced. Dr Ogink stressed the need for better on-farm verification of these units in order to regain public confidence.

The final paper on the programme was due to be on the organisation at European level of lobbying for the pig meat sector from Copa-Cogeca. It was a disappointment to many delegates that this paper could not be presented.