The British pig industry begins this year in better shape than it started the last one.
A year ago, the industry was still in the depths of a market crisis.The main drivers behind the recovery since the spring – the weak pound, tight supplies and export demand – are set to remain in place well into 2017. So, we can expect more stability, although the outlook for the second half of the year is less certain.
The antibiotic challenge is a considerable one. But again, despite the fact we are facing new long-term targets and a real urgency to significantly increase antibiotic recording, the industry is in a better place than it was because the entire pig supply chain is now tackling the problem collectively.
The Government is aware of the efforts being made – and the clear objective now is to negotiate new targets that are proportionate, workable and, above all, do not compromise animal health and welfare.
Then there’s Brexit. Brexit! The politics of nobody really knowing what’s going on. All we can say with any certainty is that it presents threats and opportunities in equal measure to this sector – and the industry will never be more reliant on the skills and knowledge of its leaders than during 2017 and beyond.
If there is one challenge above all else that looms large over the next 12 months, it is the need to communicate with, and understand the needs of, the consumer
Talking of which, the threat of animal rights activism is not going to go away. NPA chairman Richard Lister’s call to ‘stand up to the bullies’ but also to ensure farmers maintain their high standards, at all times, and get behind the Red Tractor, is an important message.
His organisation does a huge amount of work on this issue and, again, it is the collective approach in knowledge sharing and communication, in particular, that will win through.
But, perhaps, if there is one challenge above all else that looms large over the next 12 months, it is the need to communicate with, and understand the needs of, the consumer. This is about communicating the benefits of pork and dispelling the myths, but also focusing like never before on the final product we present the public with.
It is about developing the right products for the right markets and marketing them effectively. It is about eating quality, including the questions around classification, fat levels and dealing with boar taint. It is about what happens on the farm, the abattoir, the cutting plant, the supermarket, the feed mill, the kitchen – but above all tackling the bigger picture collectively, right across the supply chain.
Plenty to look forward to in 2017…