16 November 2001



THE British pig industry is still trying to recover from its longest ever crisis, which saw 3000 producers quit in three years.

Mick Sloyan, MLCs pig strategy manager, says the 11,300 holdings that survived the period when prices were below the cost of production face continuing problems.

"When it come to producing protein at lowest possible price UK producers cannot compete with imports, and they cannot simply sit back and wait until the exchange rate is more favourable," he claims. "They have to offer something extra that consumers are prepared to pay for, and market it well."

Consumers already recognise the British Quality Standard mark indicates home-produced pigmeat is special, but Mr Sloyan wants to see much more branding.

"Some pig farmers are already developing a brand image for their products, and are working closely with independent retailers. There is no reason why this cannot extend to the big multiples, which are becoming keener on regional and sub-regional branding."

He also favours more communication between producers, processors and retailers, so farmers can send their type of pigs to the right markets, and get rewarded for meeting particular carcass specifications.

The strategic plan drafted by the British Pig Executive (BPEX) envisages a segmented pig meat market catering for the increasingly "individualistic and idiosyncratic" demand of UK and European consumers.

It says that different segments must be identified and exploited, while maintaining and promoting underlying core values such as high welfare standards, the use of quality feeds and independent auditing of the supply chain.

Mr Sloyan, who manages BPEX, thinks the UK industry can target and capture new markets in the EU and worldwide using value added products.

But to be competitive the industry needs to reduce costs in pig production, slaughtering, processing and distribution. The target is a 10% cut in supply chain costs over five years.

"This will be a painful process but it is achievable though greater communication, restructuring and rationalisation. We need to add value to relationships, improve the flow of information between businesses in the supply chain, research into and demonstration of best practice, and targeted use of promotional funds."

"UK pig producers cannot simply sit back and wait until the exchange rate is more favourable" – Mick Sloyan.

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