8 March 1996

Rationalisation was vital, say pig men

FUTURE profitability for Dutch livestock farmers is dependent on having a successful abattoir sector, argues pig farmer Siem Kon.

Mr Kon farms at Drieendijk, near Rotterdam, in the west of Holland where he finishes 13,000 pigs a year. Two separate breeding units provide the weaners.

The pigs are fed a liquid diet and are sold to the leading co-op, Dumeco, killing out at 90kg for the fresh meat market.

"I think we are wise to have this (rationalisation) programme, because over-capacity in the slaughterhouses was putting pressure on prices," he says.

He agrees there has been a short-term effect on the market, as some of the cost has been shouldered by producers. "But we have to take the longterm view. The slaughterhouses were very marginal and we had to get out of that situation."

Apart from price, some Dutch farmers have also expressed concern about longer journeys to slaughter. But, as Mr Kon explains, the longest anyone has to haul their stock in Holland is three hours, so it is not the same concern as it might be in the UK.

Casualty slaughter is also not an issue as, under the Dutch scheme, the smallest abattoirs are exempt. (A similar exemption is included in the MLCs plans.)

Many of these views are echoed by Frans de Rond, who farms at Echt, near Maastricht, in the south of the country.

Mr de Rond is chairman of his local union pigs committee and, as such, was involved in the consultations before the scheme started in April 1995.

"At that time, many farmers were only thinking short term – what effect it could have on prices this year. But we had to persuade them to take a longer term view. If we had done nothing about over-capacity, slaughterers would be finished with pigs in 10 years."

The only option then would have been to send them to be slaughtered in other countries, forfeiting the benefit of added value and running into problems of maximum journey times.

"It is surely better to transport meat than live animal."

On this subject, Mr de Rond notes that it only costs 25 cents/kg to bring pig meat over from the US, as will happen increasingly following the GATT agreement. "We can only survive if we have a very efficient slaughterhouse industry, with good investment and top quality management."

Rationalisation is an integral part of achieving this and, if anything, has taken the pressure off market prices.

Dutch pig farmer Siem Kon (left), and his brother Ad, check over their Duroc x Yorkshire x Landrace stock. Both believe their will be long term benefits from having a leaner abattoir sector.