17 May 2002

Recovery plan is launched to ease pig industry decline

By Andrew Shirley

THIRTEEN could be the lucky number for the UKs long-suffering pig producers if a new recovery plan from the British Pig Executive proves to be successful.

The organisation, part ofthe Meat and Livestock Commission, is pinning its hopes of recovery for the pork sector on a new five-year 13-point plan unveiled this week at the Pig & Poultry fair.

"The British pig industry is in a dangerous spiral of decline with the national herd contracting at an alarming rate. That decline must be halted and reversed," said BPEX manager Mick Sloyan at the launch.

BPEX strategy co-ordinator Andrew Knowles added: "We are at the point where we can carry on what we have been doing and watch the industry disappear or we can make some fundamental changes. There is a realisation by everybody within the industry that we have got to change. The time for talking is over."

A raft of measures, including promotion of the benefits of eating pork, feature in the plan, but much of the strategy will be aimed at improving cost competitiveness by stripping out costs and improving integration throughout the supply chain.

Although this is not a new concept and has been used in other industries, Mr Knowles said the main priority over the last two years had been fighting the problems of foot-and-mouth and pig-wasting diseases.

But lack of research was not a problem, he noted. "There has been an awful lot, but we need to get it in place on the farm." Other beneficial ideas could come from overseas, he believed. "We need to be humble enough to take on sound ideas from abroad. Under the scheme there will joint initiatives with other EU pig-producing countries in non-competitive areas."

A return to castrating animals, allowing the production of heavier carcasses, was one option, according to Mr Knowles. But, because most of the pork consumed in the UK was fresh, there was a limit to the size of joints that retailers would accept, he conceded.

When asked about the plans chances of success Mr Knowles said it would succeed if the industry wanted it to. "The industry has been saying it needs a lead to go forward and that is what we are attempting to provide." &#42

Mick Sloyan says the British pig industry is in a dangerous decline.