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Almost there...

As the deadline for introduction of the new EU pig welfare rules is less than two months away, the Danish industry reaffirmed its belief that Denmark would fully comply with new regulations. Lingering doubts remain on how strictly the rules will be enforced in some Member States, where, on the basis of available information, many pregnant sows are still kept in traditional stalls.

At the recent Herning Pig Congress, the annual gathering of the Danish pig industry attended by over 2,000 delegates, the DAFC issued a press release ('Danish farmers on course for January deadline') confirming their expectation that the Danish pig industry would be fully compliant with the new regulations by 1st January.

The statement was carried in a number of trade press titles:

Farmers Weekly
The Pigsite
Pig International
Global Meat News

The most recent estimate indicates that around 85 per cent of producers are already keeping pregnant sows in group systems. Of those who have not yet converted, a significant number are in the final stages of adapting their production to be compliant by the deadline date for the legislation’s introduction. It is expected that the balance of Danish producers will cease production by December. They run mainly smaller and older units.

The Danish authorities, who run a programme of ‘unannounced audits’ of pig producers to ensure that they are adhering to all welfare legislation, have made it clear that any breach of legislation found would be reported to the police. In addition, any producers found not to be complying with the new rules will forfeit their entitlement to support under the EU Single Farm Payment.

The EU Commission held a stakeholder meeting in Brussels on 17th October, during which they presented their updated view on likely levels of compliance of the Member States on 1st January. These were based on official responses received from each country. In summary…

• 17 countries are expected to be more or less fully compliant
• Nine countries will be 70 – 90% compliant
• One country will be 30% compliant

It was acknowledged that smaller units (with less than 100 sows) would represent the main problem area regarding compliance.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that many Member States have a long way to go in order to become fully compliant by the January deadline – unless significant numbers of their producers decide to cease production between now and December. There has also been a degree of cynicism expressed in several quarters on how rigidly the new rules will be enforced in certain countries.

BPEX took the opportunity to publish an updated report of their assessment of possible market scenarios in 2013 arising from implementation of the new EU rules ('Market Impact of EU Regulations on Group Housing of Sows'). The conclusion was that EU sow numbers may decline by up to 5% during 2013 and that this process is already underway. If the new regulations are rigidly applied, then the decline will be greater. In the medium to longer term, we may see more specialised sow/piglet production in Northern Europe, with more focus on finishing pigs in the Southern European countries, based on imported weaners/growing pigs.