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Challenges ahead.

1. Plea for flexibility

The latest forecasts from SEGES suggest that many Danish pig farmers will experience losses in 2015 and for much of 2016. However, DAFC has been heartened by recent news that the new Minister for Environment & Food is proposing to introduce a less rigid interpretation of the country’s environmental regulations, which have undermined the competitive position of Danish pig producers in recent years.

The latest pig census in Denmark (published on July 1st) suggested that the breeding herd had stabilised but there were higher numbers of piglets and weaners on Danish pig farms.

Although domestic slaughterings rose in the first seven months of the year (from 10.8 to 11.1 million head), exports of piglets to Germany, Poland and other EU markets continued on an upward trajectory, rising from 6.5 to 7.2 million head in January to July 2015.

The latest forecast from SEGES/Danish Pig Research Centre suggests that pig producers face losses of over DKK 300,000 in 2015 but will return a small profit of around DKK 75,000 in 2016. However, these figures represent the average position and the top third of farmers will still show a profit in both years.

Strict environmental rules

Against this background, the Danish Agriculture & Food Council continues to press the government to adopt a more flexible approach towards the implementation of environmental rules, which for many years have undermined the competitive position of Danish pig farmers versus their EU competitors.

Since the mid-1980s, Danish farmers have had to contend with much stricter environmental rules than their EU competitors. These include a link between the number of livestock and land available for the disposal of slurry and the requirement for 9 months’ slurry storage capacity, as well as restrictions on the periods when slurry can be applied to the soil.

Eva Kjær Hansen, Minister for Environment & Food

DAFC was recently encouraged by signals from Eva Kjær Hansen, the new Minister for Environment & Food, that she was proposing to address one of their major concerns. Currently, Danish farmers may only apply slurry to their arable land at the rate of 140kg of nitrogen per hectare compared to the EU requirement of 170kg per hectare. This has proved a very damaging restriction, and recent figures from SEGES show that the protein content of Danish barley this year is lower than ever. On an annual basis, Danish farmers are losing over DKK 2 billion, and Danish farmers have to import extra soya from South America for feed because the quality of domestic grain has been diminished, as a result of this restriction.

“For a number of years, DAFC has made a concerted effort to have this restrictive rule abolished, as it is a very costly tool, with far less environmental benefit than was originally envisaged. The costs to agriculture have proved to be far greater than originally assumed and have had disproportionate consequences,” says Lars Hvidtfeldt, Vice-Chairman of the Danish Agriculture & Food Council.

Lars Hvidfeldt, DAFC Vice-Chairman.