The global pig market is likely to face significant challenges through 2012 and into 2013 as sow numbers fall in the face of tough new environmental and animal welfare regulations in the EU and consumers switch to cheaper foods due to the difficult financial times, according to speakers at the European Pig Producers Congress on May 31.

British Pig Executive director Mick Sloyan, who presented on the second day of the Vilnius, Lithuania-held event, said that the current Euro currency crisis is having a direct impact on the import/export trade, but that he is optimistic the industry will weather the current turmoil and that committed producers will come out stronger in the long run as demand grows again and pushes up prices. “Exports from the EU are likely to continue to grow, with Russia remaining a major market and strong growth in sales to China and Japan, as well as Korea,” he said. “China could be the most significant factor in global terms, especially because it provided a market for the bits of pig we don’t normally eat in the West.” Pig intestines, for example, sell at 17.50 yuan for 500g, compared with just 12.20 yuan for pork chops. “I am optimistic about the future, as long as we can stay competitive,” he said.

Other papers delivered at the conference during the day included one by Dr. Bjarne Holm, of the Norwegian genetics company Norsvin, who called for more attention to be paid to improving pigs’ feed efficiency through the maternal line, as well as the sire line. “As the maternal lines make up 50 percent of the commercial slaughter pig genetic programs must start delivering improved feed efficiency to a higher extent than at present,” said Holm. His company is currently working on research involving CT scans and video analysis to help it improve the robustness and meat quality of female pigs, as well as their feed-to-growth efficiency. “Companies need to invest in R&D to be able to stay in the game, with maternal breeding goals bringing it all together for future success,” he said.


Dr. Nico Ogink, an expert on low-emission housing systems at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, spoke about the need for a new generation of air scrubbers in intensive pig production units to help remove odors, ammonia and nitrogen. He also called for “drastic improvement” of on-farm verification schemes to help regain public confidence in farmers’ efforts to clean up waste air and reduce emissions. He said improved systems will not only help pig producers become better neighbors and reduce the impact on the environment, they will also lead to improved performance, better conditions for workers and pigs and help minimize costs.

During an impromptu debate, prominent Lithuanian producer Claus Baltersen, who originally hails from Denmark and has units in Lithuania and Russia, asked why pig farmers are always defending their industry and why producers accept that they are essentially compared with the worst criminals every day. He said that, instead, the industry should be going out to tell the authorities and general public about all the positive things it does and what it needs. It should also invite critics in to show them what pig production is all about.

The conference ended with farm visits on June 1. The 2013 European Pig Producers Congress will be held in Vingsted, Denmark, from May 29 to June 1.