By FWi staff

DUTCH pigmeat suppliers are to tighten their integrated quality control system, IKB, in an effort to bolster consumer confidence and regain lost market share.

According to Hans Schouwenburg of the Dutch Livestock Product Board, IKB has been crucial to improving the image of pigmeat over the past 10 years.

“It may not have resulted in a better product, but it has given consumers guarantees,” he told a UK trade seminar this week.

Now covering 85% of all slaughterings, this has resulted in a much stronger position for Dutch pigmeat in Holland and in the all-important UK bacon market.

But a number of improvements are in the pipeline.

In an attempt to pre-empt possible new EU labelling rules – already in place for beef – fresh traceability systems will be added to IKB next year, said Mr Schouwenburg.

This will allow the tracking back of product to much smaller groups of farmers than is currently achieved.

A new “in-trough” feed monitoring system is also coming in, with a code of practice for on-farm storage and a blacklist of banned raw materials.

Separate salmonella thresholds will also be introduced at abattoirs, and a sampling programme introduced for hormone and antibiotic residues, backed up with hefty fines.

Furthermore, by the end of 2003, IKB is to be integrated with the SKOVAR “licence to produce” system, with additional welfare and environmental conditions built in.

The changes come at a time when Dutch sales to the UK have slipped, due to the imposition of foot-and-mouth export restrictions last April.

Dutch Meat Board managing director Robert Smith said shipments of Crest bacon this year are likely to be about 10,000t down on last years record of 112,000t.

This will put a dent in the countrys 30% UK market share, business that has mostly gone to the Danes.

Overall, the total volume of bacon sold by UK retailers has dropped by about 5% in the past 12 months, Karl Jenkins of market researchers Taylor Nelson Sofres told the seminar.

But stronger retail prices, helped by the lower availability following foot-and-mouth, meant turnover was actually up 7% at 990 million.