Pig and poultry producers thronged the stands on the British Pig & Poultry Fair’s opening day, making the most of the opportunity so see the latest technical developments and hear expert business predictions.
The 335 stands at the Fair – held at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire – covered animal health, breeding, housing, nutrition, energy, transport, biosecurity and more, featuring more than 66 new products, giving visitors the opportunity to compare and contrast different solutions.
It was standing room only at the Poultry Forum Theatre, with Chief Executive of the British Egg Industry Council Mark Williams kicking off the Egg Outlook forum.
“After four years it is really good to see people in the flesh. The industry faces some significant challenges but there are opportunities too,” said Mark. “I’ve been in the egg industry all my life and never seen this perfect storm of rising energy, fuel and feed costs and difficulties sourcing labour.”
With avian flu also in the mix, the egg industry had faced a torrid time, he added. “We need to prepare for being clobbered with H5N8 or H5N1 again at the end of this year and next. Avian flu is still around and we need to be mindful of that.”
Looking ahead, Mark said current cost pressures must be addressed as the egg industry could not afford to absorb them: “Packers are doing their best to get costs recognised but these need to be taken forward to consumers”.
However, there was room for optimism on egg volumes and prices, he said. “In 2020/21 volumes were up significantly due to COVID-19. They have gone backwards slightly but today, compared with three years ago, the volume is up 4 percent and value, 17 percent so they are going in the right direction.”
In the Pig Forum Theatre, Steve Ellis, chief executive, Karro Food Group outlined how the EU pork market sets GB pork prices. “Only 40 percent of pork consumed in the UK is UK produced. High UK pork prices create an incentive to switch to EU product.”
With many pig producers struggling with a backlog of pigs in recent months due to abattoir labour shortages and production outstripping demand, the current UK pig kill is 230,000 to 240,000 a week. “Retail pork demand is just ahead of pre-pandemic levels. The optimum pig kill versus demand is 214,000 pigs per week,” said Steve.
He predicted that the UK pig supply would be back in balance within four weeks but despite this, urgent action is required to save the UK pig industry: “We must tackle the surplus of pigs, have fair pricing throughout the supply chain, as quickly as possible and collaborate on different models in the future”.
Tackling sustainability was a key topic in a presentation given by Tesco agricultural manager John Kirkpatrick in the Poultry Meat Outlook forum.
“We have been looking at how we de-risk soya supply chains with zero deforestation,” said John. “Also we are looking at waste in our supplier base and how we can support them to become more efficient and sustainable in the long term.
“We have developed a product line ‘Room to Roam’ reflecting these values. Even though we are being challenged on value there is a market for these products. Sustainability is our clear direction of travel – supplying a safe, sustainable, affordable product.”
Pig & Poultry event partner, ABN’s general manager Danny Johnson said it was great to be back meeting with people face to face again. “I’m really happy with how the event has gone today,” he said. “Despite significant challenges facing the industry, the popularity of the Fair demonstrates how farmers are looking to the future and how they can protect and grow their businesses.”