Angela Christison, AHDB Pork’s strategy director, sets out the priorities for the sector in AHDB’s new four-year strategy, ahead of a virtual Town Hall meeting on January 7.
The English pig sector has shown great agility in adapting to delight shoppers, both here at home and in almost 100 other countries.
This has been especially the case this year, when export volumes and retail purchases have risen as so many have eaten at home due to the pandemic. Producers and processors have done an amazing job to keep British pig meat on shelves all over the world.
This ability to adapt will be a test for all agricultural sectors as we head into the new year, exit the EU, the coronavirus vaccination is rolled out and global trade dynamics shift again. Every part of agriculture faces unique challenges, and for the English pig sector these are some of the most important:
How can we sell every part of the pig for the best return at home or overseas?
Our award-winning marketing campaigns boost shoppers’ attitudes to pork as a midweek meal option. They have been incredibly successful in retaining and building pork eating habits.
We will continue to lead on market access to countries such as Vietnam, partnering with processors, stakeholders and government as we grow high-value markets such as Hong Kong and high-volume markets such as China. We have specialist staff in key markets, seeking opportunities for carcase balance, which helps support domestic farmgate prices.
How do we continue to protect the reputation of pork and promote its benefits to consumers?
We tightly track consumers’ perceptions and buying habits. This allows us to be really sophisticated in the way we target our marketing messages, the timing and the channels we use.
Consumers are serious about their health and it is essential that they are confident to eat pig meat and understand the important role it plays in a healthy, balanced diet. Knowing that the industry takes this seriously, for example through voluntarily recording antibiotic use via AHDB’s eMB, provides reassurance.
How do we continue to improve animal health and welfare and reduce our environmental impact?
Of course, consumers care about the health of animals, and the planet too, and we have ways of uniting the industry with our Real Welfare scheme that is unique in measuring welfare outcomes, as well as provisions.
The industry will also need to develop a way of continuing to measure its environmental impact and demonstrating the improvements it makes. We will build on the example of the eMB to create a similar system to collect data on environmental performance.
How can we improve production efficiency in a way that supports the reputation of British pork, while remaining competitive at home and overseas?
There is no doubt that competition for sales in all markets will increase over the coming years. The global industry has geared up to export into huge markets where domestic production does not meet demand.
However, markets like China are making great strides in increasing their own production and there will, therefore, be a period of adjustment where we could find ourselves with too many pigs in the world.
When supply exceeds demand, prices fall, and the most efficient farmers are best placed to weather the storm.
AHDB will continue to support producers in person to adopt the best on-farm practices and innovation via our clubs and Strategic Farms.
There will also be a strong line-up of online support, via our website, podcasts and digital tools, which have been really well attended during this time of limited social interactions.
There will be an opportunity to talk directly with myself and Mike Sheldon, chair of the AHDB Pork Board, at a virtual ‘Town Hall’ meeting, at 10am on January 7, 2021.
We hope to see you there. We would also like to hear your views on the strategy – please visit ahdb.org.uk/strategy/pork.