British pig producers have been warned of rocky times ahead, with volatile foreign exchange rates and unpredictable feed price rises set to further reduce profit margins in the short to medium term.
However, British Pig Executive (BPEX) analyst James Park told delegates to the BPEX Outlook 2011 conference in London, England, in the end of April, that he expected the UK pig price to rise in 2012, when the industry could see clean pig slaughterings increase during the final three quarters of the year. However, uncertainty over cereal harvests and the rising cost of other inputs could cause serious problems before then.
BPEX chairman Stewart Houston, who admitted he was ‘quite frightened about what might happen to my business over the next six months’, warned that the lack of a rise in pig prices could lead to an exodus from the industry, especially if there is no respite in feed costs.
Roadmap to help
Before the conference started, BPEX launched an ambitious new roadmap to help UK producers reduce their impact on the environment without compromising performance.
The new strategy describes how they can meet a range of challenging targets to cut their carbon footprints by improving efficiency, increasing productivity and sharpening competitiveness.
"We have looked at all the environmental issue facing pig producers today and come up with the best solutions for producers as well as the environment," explained BPEX environment programme manager Nigel Penlington.
The four main targets include a 17% cut in the emission of greenhouse gases; a reduction of 15% in the amount of nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate from manure or slurry that ends up in the aquatic environment; a 15% cut in the release of acidic gases such as ammonia and sulphur dioxide; and a 16% reduction in the use of "scarce natural products," including fossil fuels.
"Putting all the pieces of the jigsaw together has shown us that feed is the biggest burden and we need to concentrate particularly on ways to improve feed efficiency to deliver many of the environmental and production benefits," said Penlington.
"It is a challenging programme, but our competitors abroad are moving in the same direction and the only way forward is to get better. We cannot afford to fall behind, or forget the consumers."
Houston pointed out that BPEX’s targets went beyond the 11% reduction in the carbon footprint, set out for agriculture in England by the government, "because we want to leave a firm foundation for the next generation".
Commenting on the new document, entitled Advancing Together, agriculture and food minister Jim Paice said: "The English pig industry has demonstrated ambition to meet the challenges it faces, once again showing its leadership and commitment to making our food and farming more sustainable."
• British Pig Executive (BPEX)