Christmas Q&A special – Acting Chief Executive, AHDB, and Director, BPEX, Mick Sloyan

Mick highlights the British pig industry’s productivity improvements in 2014 and pays tribute to the “majority” of major retailers who have committed to selling 100% British pork because they know it makes sound business sense.

Q1 – What was your pig sector highlight/lowpoint of 2014?

“The highpoint of 2014 was seeing the progress that the British pig industry has made in closing the productivity gap on European competitors.  The profits made in recent years have been reinvested and in the last year we have made progress at a faster rate than other major pig producers in the EU.  This has been the case especially in the breeding herd where we increased the number of pigs weaned per sow by 1.5 in the 12 months to June 2014. 

“The lowpoint was the closure of the Russian market to EU exports.  This affected UK breeding pig exports and was a major factor in the collapse in EU finished pig prices which has pulled down British prices.”   

Q2 – What do you most hope will be achieved by UK pig producers in 2015?

“That the British pig price premium can be maintained to a large degree in the face of a very weak Continental market.  In 2014, British pig prices (on a Reference Price basis) averaged 28p/kg higher than the EU average.  This is up from the average of 12p/kg in 2013.  It will be very difficult to maintain the 2014 level but with sufficient commitment from retailers and processors it will stop the British market moving too far into the red.”

Q3 – What one pig industry experience did you enjoy most in 2015?

“The Pig Fair this year was a great experience.  The BPEX stand was as busy as I have seen it for a long time and the mood among those attending was excellent.  It was encouraging to feel a cautiously optimistic mood after so many years when this was lacking.”  

Q4 – Free pig sector comment – something you feel strongly about.

“I hope the supply chain takes a positive lesson from the last few years.  The majority of the major retailers have committed to selling 100% British pork because they have seen that it makes sound business sense.  This has not been restricted to the so-called up-market retailers but has included the discounters like Aldi proving that even when buying power is restricted, consumers appreciate and will pay for locally produced good value pork. 

“I am sure that these and the other retailers appreciate that in order to maintain the supply of British pigmeat they have a vital part to play by continuing to invest in pig prices.  This will result in continued investment and ultimately more competitively priced British pork for them to sell to their demanding customers.”

Today’s tasty photo is from Sainsbury’s, whose current Porkwatch rating shows the supermarket stocking 100% British pork, 95% British ham and 90% British sausages.

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