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EPP-Congress 2016: Pig production in Ireland: Quality, Traceability and Productivity

Even though many European pig producers are feeling the pressure of a tense revenue situation, EPP President Erik Thijssen was able to welcome 350 participants to the 26th EPP Congress in Dublin on 25 May. Producers had come to find out more about local pork production and to exchange information and experiences about the current situation on their farms. Colin Marry, the speaker of the Irish EPP group, thanked the Congress partners in his welcoming speech, saying that it would not have been possible to hold the event without their support.

Over the past 12 months, a noticeable increase in the demand for pork produced and processed in keeping with animal welfare and environmental considerations has resulted in substantial cost increases for European producers, which are only partially reflected in higher returns, though. This tense situation demands individual operational solutions if businesses are to be developed further. Horizontal or even vertical integration as is commonly found in Ireland, among others, constitutes a possible solution for some (though certainly not all) pig producers. That is why EPP President Erik Thijssen invited participants to engage actively in the discussions around the “less is more” concept. 

Robert Hoste, an agrarian economist from Wageningen University, Netherlands, suggested that reducing sow numbers within the EU by 2-2.5% per year would create stable markets in the long term, as annual increases in productivity, above all, have resulted in the existing situation of an (at least partial) oversupply with decreasing consumption. Hoste is critical of solutions that focus exclusively on export, as this would expose markets to long-term risks due to exchange rate fluctuations and dependence on oil prices.

Participants were also interested in experts’ views on the effects of a potential “Brexit” on production in Ireland and Europe. By the end of the event, British participants also agreed that the United Kingdom leaving the EU would have negative effects, and there was ultimately general consensus that the “UK should stay in the EU”.

There are about 150,000 sows in Ireland, which are stocked by 279 integrated farms working within closed systems. These professional businesses therefore keep an average of about 540 sows and produce about 65,000 slaughter pigs every week. As boars are also fattened in Ireland, where male piglets are not castrated, animals reach an average slaughter weight of 83 kg. Production costs were stated to be EUR1.53, with a feed conversion of 1:2.43 and daily weight gains of 694 g. Participants were able to visit some farms during excursions, where they also had the opportunity to exchange experiences with farm managers.

60% of the pork produced in Ireland is for export, mainly to the United Kingdom. Domestic marketing via special branding was developed in conjunction with Irish retailers and has also proven effective for export. The “Brand Ireland” stands for quality-tested local production that offers 100% traceability and enjoys 93% brand awareness among consumers. Presenters from Ireland agreed that investments in building consumer trust have paid off, yet further innovations will be necessary if this trust is to be maintained in the long term.

The EPP Congress, which mainly addresses the needs of the Association’s 500 members, is held annually at varying locations. The next meeting will be held in Norway in 2017.

Please find the program flyer here…
Please find the sheets of the speakers here…

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