Animal feed prices and production costs were the key topics of conversation among visitors and exhibitors at SPACE 2012, which opened in Rennes, Brittany, France, on September 11, with discussion about the new EU animal welfare regulations also a hot-button topic.

And in spite of the current difficult financial climate for all livestock farmers, the show, which runs until September 14 and is celebrating its 25th anniversary, is bigger than ever before, although attendance remained stable at about 22,100 visitors on the first day compared with figures from 2011.

A leading visitor on opening day was new French President François Hollande. While there, the president urged pig producers and other sectors of the agricultural industry to “go out and conquer new markets by boosting new farms, protecting agricultural land and calming volatility.”

His words were welcomed by many at the show, including Michel Rieu of the French Institute for Pigs, who told Pig International he believes there is plenty of room for French pig producers to grow and consolidate production for the domestic market, as demand for pork grows in the future. He also said he believes the balance of supply and demand will soon lead to higher prices for pork and that the prices will remain high through 2013 and maybe even 2014.

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Pig farming, said Rieu, is becoming popular again in France with the number of young French people who want to be pig farmers growing rapidly. “This is a good sign and reflects the excellent model of farming that the industry has here — small, family-style farms with between 300 and 400 pigs per farm,” he said.

Jean-Michel Serres, president of the National Pig Federation in France, told Pig International that “France is a good place for the future.” He said that producers need to consolidate production to secure the domestic market, and that French producers are used to high input costs and can remain competitive under the current wave of high international prices.

Arnaud Buchet, commercial export manager for French pig breeder Nucléus SAS, said the company has been selecting for feed conversion rate, rather than growth, to help French pig producers produce more with less feed for several years, so it is now ahead of the game as feed prices continues to soar on the international markets. As a result, according to Buchet, the company’s sire and female lines are now attracting many new customers in several new markets, including China, Korea and the U.S.