Writing in the April edition of Pig World, new AHDB Pork strategy director Angela Christison set out her goals for the job.
In January I was offered the opportunity to become the strategy director for pork with AHDB and I could not have been more delighted. After all, AHDB is one of only a few organisations worldwide with such breadth and depth in agriculture – providing an essential and invaluable perspective as we move through uncertain times.
Of course I wanted to be part of the team, especially as we start the one-year countdown to Brexit. To be involved at this historic juncture is a real privilege.
Strategic thinking always begins with the market. Pork is the most commonly eaten meat in the world, with demand rising each year. British Pork has so much to be proud of. By telling our story, we have already brought about fresh opportunities to sell to new customers at home and overseas.
Consumers in the UK are now realising how lean pork can be, thanks to our Midweek Meals campaign, and overall year-on-year sales were up by half a percentage point between 2016 and 2017.
Overseas sales have continued to grow, too, with pork exports from the UK up by 5% over the same period. Indeed, China chose to import slightly more British pork in 2017, bucking the trend of reduced imports from other countries.
Such demand comes hand-in-hand with competition to meet it. Some 60% of pigmeat consumed in the UK is from EU suppliers and, while many retailers choose to back British, we must continue to listen and respond to consumer preferences. The market intelligence that AHDB conducts to identify and stimulate new and existing markets is vital in order to optimise opportunities.
No single player can control the global market forces (with or without Brexit) that inevitably control our pig prices. However, individuals can influence productivity levels within their own business. The AHDB Knowledge Exchange team are working hard with individual producers to optimise their production systems, at the same time as many face the challenge of reducing and refining their antibiotic usage.
The incumbent strategy director Mick Sloyan has been so welcoming and inclusive, introducing me to many colleagues already. I have been struck by the sheer dedication of the team, who are focused on making a positive difference. Mick retires in June and has made plans for me to meet as many industry contacts as possible. I am very fortunate to work alongside such a gentleman and industry expert – hopefully the industry won’t lose him completely after June.
Change is inevitable, whether it be within the global market, on a farm, in a processing plant or within an organisation.
While there are uncertain times ahead, the British Pork sector has already weathered many storms and has shown time and time again it has the mettle to stand up and be counted as one of the best pork producers in the world. I look forward to meeting many more of you and working alongside the AHDB team to support the pork sector through Brexit and beyond.