Highs, lows and a “rant” from Meryl Ward

Pig World has invited industry leaders to share their personal highs and lows from 2015, while also expressing a pig sector wish for 2016.  Today’s Christmas Eve contribution is from AHDB Pork chair, Meryl Ward, MBE.

PW: What was your pig sector highlight/lowpoint from 2015?

MW: My highlight is the increased success of our pig exports, now worth over £350 million, both through adding value to low value cuts and increasing demand for our high welfare, safe and traceable pork.  We look forward to further success for our processors next year with the potential to export trotters to China, and the increasing numbers of global middle class consumers looking for more English pork.

On the home market, the major success of the pulled pork campaign was an exemplar of joined-up supply chain working across all the major retailers and processors.  It also raised our profile in the food service sector, securing valuable contracts and kick-starting the plan to “rejuvenate the image of pork” with younger consumers.  Roll on the next campaign for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

PW: What do you most hope will be achieved by UK pig producers in 2016?

MW: That UK producers will continue to “close the gap” in technical performance with our major competitors, continuing the good work of 2015, and keep investing to grow our industry.  Customers really want our products!

PW: What one pig industry experience did you enjoy most in 2015?

MW: The Anuga Food Fair in Cologne, especially as the AHDB stand in the International Food Hall was branded “Great Britain” and really stood out from the crowd.  At an exhibition where you could travel 65km to get round every stand, it showcased the best of British, and provided our exporters with a prime networking location, including hosting a Chinese delegation for a very British experience.

If I’m also allowed to select a second experience, it would be the Pig Innovation Conference in Stoneleigh in May where over 300 industry delegates were presented with novel innovative products and ideas. This event showcased the potential for our industry, including bacteriophages and the benefits of blue lighting

PW: Would you like to make a “free pig sector comment” on something about which you feel strongly?

MW: Firstly a rant!  We need to ensure that there is a fair share of profits down the retail chain. The producer share has shrunk to a 5-year low of 34% which, in a period of low prices is extremely painful pre the farmgate. Supply chains need to work together to add even more value but also to recognise and reward all parts of that chain.

Producers not only need to be able to reinvest to drive efficiency but have a burden of responsibility as primary carers of livestock, which needs to be recognised and adequately supported by beneficiaries further up the chain.  Great to have commitments to British but let’s have it at a fair cost.

And then the good news! There has been great progress in moving towards a new way of working in many areas with collaboration and novel partnerships likely to seriously improve the potential for industry progress and growth. Examples of this include the contingency planning for PEDv, the antimicrobials medicine hub and the creation of the new Agritech network, CIEL (Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock), which should make research and development more industry-focused, with a direct line to implementation.

Other “industry leader” contributions will follow between Christmas and New Year.

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About The Author

Freelance journalist Colin Ley is Pig World's website news reporter