With the pig industry increasingly dominated by imports, there is an urgent need to promote and brand British pork, which is both produced and processed in Britain, auctioneer and valuer, Peter Crichton, told an ACMC-sponsored meeting of the Suffolk Pig Discussion group.
He said that the industry should make a clearer distinction between foreign pork and the British product and its production methods, and should consider employing 'food professionals' with an advertising agency to help achieve this in the eyes of the public. Pork — not just bacon — from Denmark, Poland, Holland and Sweden can now be found on the supermarket shelves with little to differentiate it from locally-produced pork.
Mr Crichton predicted that the UK total breeding herd, currently standing at 423,000 head, would dip below 400,000 sows next year. This would provide opportunities. Weaner prices were already firming and because of the shortfall in meat supplies, prices for finishers could reach 150 p per kg by July.
Feed prices had dropped but wheat futures showed prices rising from £95 per tonne in January to £111 in November. He warned that in a market so influenced by imports, pig prices were still ruled by the Euro and its value relative to pound sterling.
Danish pig industry
Attention was given to the crisis in the Danish pig industry— with producers losing up to £20 per pig — following the loss of the massive Russian trade. Danish pigs now have to find a market in Europe, which could have knock-on effects in Britain. There were now fewer abattoirs — and therefore fewer pig buyers — and around 50 per cent of this sector of the industry was now in the hands of just two major importers.
Despite better productivity due to the use of the PCV2 vaccine, production on the farm was still not good compared with continental producers, with the top-third indoor and outdoor herds rearing 24.65 and 22.40 pigs per sow annually respectively.
Mr Crichton advised producers to consider such actions as conducting SWOT analyses of their businesses, forward-buying of their feed as an insurance and, for those that were good at breeding, to consider concentrating on this area rather than finishing.