The adoption of new high-tech technology is the key to enabling pig producers and other farmers to increase efficiency and production to meet the expected future growth in global demand for food, according to Ken Boyns, director of market intelligence at the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

One of the keynote speakers at the organization’s recent Outlook 2012 conference in London, Boyns said he believes pig producers and farmers generally will be able to meet the growing demand for protein and other foods if they are allowed to use the latest high-tech tools that are being developed by researchers. “The big question is what sort of technology farmers will be allowed to use and whether all countries will adopt similar measures to ensure fair competition between producers,” said Boyns.

When discussing new technology and its position as key to the long-term future of agriculture, Boyns said there is an urgent need to refocus the debate on the benefits high-tech developments offer consumers, rather than how they can help farmers or processors. Farmers, he said, should venture beyond the farm gate and collaborate more closely with the supply chain and consumers.

Another speaker at the conference, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board pig industry analyst Stephen Howarth, told a special break-out session for the pig sector that UK pig prices are on the rise again, with cull sow prices recently reaching their highest level since October 2008 after a post-Christmas fall. Sow productivity is also increasing, thanks to a younger breeding herd, better genetics, better health care and the British Pig Executive campaign to reach the so-called two-tonne sow (enabling pig farmers to produce 2,000 kg of pig meat per sow per year by 2013) — this upward trend is expected to continue until at least 2015.

The UK industry is also likely to benefit from the expected contraction in sow numbers and production across the rest of the European Union when the partial ban on sow stalls and regulations to enforce group housing becomes law in January 2013, said Howarth.