17 November 2000

PIG PROBLEMS CONTINUE

"THERE is no denying that times are still tough for pig producers, particularly those now hit by classical swine fever, or caught up in surveillance zones," says Mick Sloyan, MLC pig strategy manager.

"Even those now generating a reasonable margin over costs will need a long run of good prices to recoup accumulated losses."

He says the industry continues to struggle with an adverse k:£ exchange rate and increased import competition, aggravated by a 20% reduction in home production. Output this year is estimated at 12m finished pigs, totalling 624,000t, compared with 15m pigs and 800,000t two years ago.

"This also impacts on processors who are on the same side of the fence as producers. Processors incur the same overheads irrespective of throughput and are an indispensable part of the total pigmeat chain," he says.

Despite the industrys difficulties, Mr Sloyan detects some bright spots in the gloom. Producers have proved their willingness to work together, including the current proposal to support a specific levy to help those caught up in the swine fever trap.

"The closest parallel is the Pig Disease Eradication Fund, launched to counter Aujeszkys Disease in the 1980s. It begs the question whether the government and MAFF should have taken prompt measures to alleviate hardship?" asks Mr Sloyan.

Also on the positive side is the industrys success in achieving 100% support for independently audited product assurance, not only at producer level, but throughout the slaughter-processing chain up to retail level.

"The consumers clear requirement is a seamless chain of assurance up to the point of retail sale," says Mr Sloyan.

"That has been achieved by the pig industry. All the structures are in place and consumers have increasing confidence in the home produced product. This also helps the MLC to differentiate the home product from imported supplies in its advertising and promotion campaigns. Freedom from salmonella infection could be added easily in the near future."

He points out that the global picture is now much more encouraging with the demand for pigmeat rising in the more affluent countries of south-east Asia.

While major exporters including the US, Canada, Denmark and even Brazil are now busy pursuing these outlets, world population continues to increase and so does a sustainable demand for pigmeat and European producers, including Britain, should derive benefit. An added advantage for our own industry is the increasing environmental pressure now being faced by some of our European competitors.

"Provided our own industry remains flexible and exploits all possible major volume and minor niche markets, including farm shops, organic pigmeat, internet marketing and ever-widening convenience food outlets, efficient producers will prosper in the future," argues Mr Sloyan. &#42

Mick Sloyan… The global picture is now much more encouraging with the demand for pigmeat rising in south-east Asia.