Pig and poultry producers are fit and ready to embrace change, with a bright outlook ahead despite a few Brexit clouds on the horizon.
Visitors to the British Pig & Poultry Fair were in buoyant mood on Wednesday, with standing room only in the popular Forum programme and trade stands buzzing with producers looking to invest in their businesses.
“In a recent survey we discovered that 63% of pig, poultry and egg producers feel positive about their business outlook in the next two years,” explains show organiser Alice Bell. “And nearly 80% of visitors to the last Fair planned to make changes to their business as a result of visiting.”
Pig producers remained in the black throughout 2017 and into 2018, with processors also enjoying profitable times, said Mick Sloyan at AHDB Pork. “That bodes well for the whole supply chain,” he said.
”The successful marketing campaign on the healthy attributes of pork fillets and loin had boosted consumer demand, yielding a £6.43 return on every £1 spent, and AHDB has further plans for a TV campaign in September.”
Pork producers had done a tremendous job of reducing antibiotic use, slashing it by 28% on 2016 and 53% on 2015, to just 131mg/kg in 2017, said Mr Sloyan. “We are targeting 99mg/kg by 2020 and I’m confident that we can achieve that while maintaining pig health and welfare.”
Export trade remained buoyant due to the weak Pound, and would be critical to the industry after Brexit, said Ed Barker, senior policy adviser at the National Pig Association. The mahority of UK pork exports go to the EU – so trade deals will be extremely influential. “I believe an EU trade deal will come ahead of all others, but the Irish border will define Brexit.”
However, Government demands in the Health and Harmony Paper could leave the industry trying to do too much at one time, with too little resource. “The Government wish list is too much to be able to have it all – there will be a trade-off and we need to have a strong industry voice,” said Mr Barker.
Andrew Saunders from Tulip Foods said it was important to keep focusing on high welfare standards, but not the extent that the industry shoots itself in the foot and opens the doors to cheaper imports. “We need to build transparency in the supply chain and sell our positive story.”
Danny Johnson, head of commercial at ABN, said it was brilliant to see such a positive turnout at the British Pig and Poultry Fair. “Sharing insight and best practice is key to the future of the pig and poultry sectors, so it’s great to see so many attendees making the most of the forum sessions, arming themselves with some great knowledge on how to best use innovation and technology.”