This week, the board of the European Pig Producers (EPP) e.V. again met up virtually in order to discuss the current situation on the pig markets and the framework conditions for European pig farmers. The pig farmers all appear to have one thing in common at present: they are waiting for the summer!
The coronavirus and the African swine fever virus are still having a major impact on the pig farmers' situation. The current COVID-19 pandemic developments are described similarly by the board members from Germany, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and South Africa. Following the outbreak of a third wave in all of these countries, things are gradually returning to normal everywhere. The only differences are in the progress being achieved in vaccination and the various prioritisation groups. While vaccination is being carried out downwards by age in the majority of countries, Denmark is now focussing on the younger generation after having completed vaccinating the over-80s. Conversely, South Africa is still in the midst of the third wave, and the country is currently making every effort to organise sufficient vaccine.
Rising demand for pork anticipated
Specifically, more normality means that contact restrictions are slowly being lifted, restaurants and hotels are opening again and holiday travel is also becoming possible. All of this also equates to increasing demand for meat and barbecue articles. It is therefore hoped that hog prices are set to rise across Europe – something that is urgently necessary. Above all, increased feed costs have placed producers under severe strain in recent weeks, and have again given pig farmers cause for concern according to the EPP country representatives' resumée. Only Denmark was able to generate good revenues due to the sharp rise in exports to China during the first half of the year. In the European hog price comparison, the Scandinavians are therefore also in second place after the Spanish, who are currently earning almost 30 cents more per kg.
However, production costs are also coming under pressure in a number of countries due to increasing animal welfare and environmental requirements. A referendum aimed at banning fully slatted floors, castration and tail docking is being planned in Austria, for instance. Here, producers are now attempting to counteract this with an 'upgrade' of the proven AMA seal of quality. Efforts are currently being made to ban castration even in Finland, where a high level of animal welfare has already been achieved. However this would cause the Finns major problems when exporting, as numerous customers refuse to accept boar meat or meat from immunocastrated boars. In Switzerland, the government is giving consideration to tightening its environmental legislation. Two referendums concerning the use of antibiotics and the use of pesticides are also pending there.
Focus remains on African swine fever
The ASF incidence in Germany, where over 1,000 infected wild boars have already been found this year, is being monitored very closely throughout Europe at present. The (long-term) impacts on prices are still being felt in Belgium today, where exporting to China is still not possible despite the country's official ASF-free status. Countries without infected wild boars are therefore making every effort to maintain this status and are now investing large sums of money in preventative measures. By installing a permanent fence and through consistent hunting, Denmark has now culled all of the wild boars in the country, and Finland has had positive experiences with increased border controls and the use of sniffer dogs at all airports and train stations along the border with Russia.
Hoping for 'real' networking
A series of 'farminars', i.e. virtual tours of EPP members' farms in various countries, is planned within the EPP network in the autumn. A work group consisting of board members is currently on the lookout for suitable farms and preparing the virtual tour.
Despite all of these virtual options, however, everyone is already looking forward to 2022, when the EPP congress, which has already been postponed twice, will then be taking place in the Netherlands as a real networking event. We will keep you informed of developments...
Sven Häuser, EPP manager, 1 June 2021