The fact Great Britain is only 50% self-sufficient in pork means pig producers should be confident of expanding, BPEX director Mick Sloyan said in his state-of-the-industry address to the inaugral National Pig Awards on November 4.
“We produce a product that people want to eat and that’s a key thing,” he said. “We only have half our own market here in the UK, so we have plenty to aim at.
“There are opportunities to produce more British pigs and we shouldbe encouraged by that. Yes, there can be short term issues like we’re seeing now with pigs being rolled, but that’s a sympton of the EU market and not about producing more pigs here.
“If you want proof of that, you only have to look at the past three years when we have managed to steadily increase output without any detrimental effect on our market.”
Mr Sloyan added, however, that to be successful the sector needed to continue improving efficiency to close the gap with out EU competitors.
“We have made good progress,” he said, “but our competitors are also improving. We need to study what they are doing to increase output and see what lessons we can learn and adopt in our own industry.”
Speaking about recent price reductions here in Britain, Mr Sloyan said it was concerning, but relative to producers on the Continent we were still doing quite well.
“In recent weeks the GB price has been 37p/kg higher than the rest of the EU, and for the year to date our price has been on average 27p/kg higher,” he added. “The reason is the support we get from the retailers. Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – and maybe surprisingly Aldi and Lidl – sell only British pork, while others like Waitrose and Marks & Spencer sell only pigmeat sourced from the UK.
“They do that because they see the value it delivers to their customers. It wasn’t always like that, but the industry has worked for years to communicate the high standards of British production. And it’s not just about welfare, it’s about production standards that are independently audited through schemes like Red Tractor.”
“And horsegate is still having an impact even though we’re two years on.”
Despite the relatively small size of the UK pig industry, Mr Sloyan said that its export volumes were impressive and expected to reach £340 million this year. Sending cuts that the UK market didn’t want to markets like Hong Kong and mainland China was currently worth 30p for every pig processed, but could be much more.
“The potential is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “I was talking to one exporter who said if they could get access to mainland China for trotters it would be worth another £5 million annually for the British industry.”
The process was complicated, however, as trade agreements had to be negotiated by the British Goverment.
“The trouble is that process is often too slow,” Mr Sloyan said, “and unfortunately our Governments efforts lack the focus that other successful exporting countries have achieved – so we need to do better.”
Brussels understanding of the current situation for producers was also questioned by the BPEX director.
“The EC has no recognition of the situation facing pig producers in mainland Europe, and the effect of the Russian ban has been made much worse by the fact that export certification is handled by the EC and not individual member states,” he said.
“Despite the fact that EU proces have fallen by 30p/kg in less than two months, the EC considers this ‘a normal seasonal trend’. They consider there is no crisis in the EU pig meat market at present and while there has been help offered for fruit and other commodities to help stabilise their markets, requests for help for the pig sector have been rejected.”