31 March 2000

You can do it, pig men told

THE British pig industry can come through its most protracted crisis in living memory to forge a profitable and sustainable future, representatives from across the food supply chain have been told.

Farmers, processors, allied companies and retailers all attended a pig summit at the Cranfield School of Management, Beds, on Tuesday, to discuss the British Pig Executives proposed three- to five-year strategy for the industry. This sets out how the industry should go about defending its position in the UK market and, in the longer term, breaking into the potentially lucrative EU market.

Central to the strategy thrust will be promoting the Quality Standard Mark for pigmeat. BPEX has launched a £4.6m promotional campaign, which it wants pig farmers to support by touring the major supermarkets to promote the welfare and food safety messages behind it. Market research will also be used to seek new opportunities for producers.

The strategy, which aims to ensure levy-payers money is invested in the most effective way, also sets a target of cutting costs across the industry supply chain by 10% over the next five years.

The response to the strategy was generally positive, although some tactics were "severely questioned", said National Pig Association producer group chairman Stewart Houston, who is on the BPEX board.

The extent to which the British industry is saying it is better than its competitors in the new PR campaign was queried by some retailers who feared negative campaigning could put people off pigmeat, he said.

BPEX sees greater supply chain co-operation as a central part of the strategy.