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3. Pulling power?

GB pig producers have also faced an increasingly difficult market in recent months, and the strong £ remained a factor in pegging down prices. The annual ‘Buy British’ fortnight took place in September and followed a much publicised debate within AHDB circles about the use of levy funds for advertising and promotional purposes. Pig producers were vocal in their support for the principle of levy payers having the final word on how levy funds are invested – as the AHDB announced significant successes for this summer’s campaign for ‘Pulled Pork’.

The strength of the £ played a major part in holding down domestic pig prices in recent months. Although feed costs remained low, the latest data from AHDB suggested that many producers are now in a loss making position as summer draws to a close.

GB producers moving into a loss-making position.

The latest DEFRA census data (June) suggest that sow numbers remain stable at 413,000 head but pigs coming forward for slaughter this year have remained consistently above 2014 levels. Improvements in productivity are a key factor here but the latest data from Agrosoft suggests that the position is now stabilising following three years of productivity gains. The average number of ‘pigs weaned per sow year’ remain at 23.6 in the latest year – this compares with a figure of around 30 achieved in Holland and Denmark.

Growth in productivity flattening out.

Buying British?

The annual two-week celebration of British food and drink took place in the final two weeks of September. British Food Fortnight has been running since 2002 and provides an opportunity for the ‘home team’ to promote its wares in concert.

Minister for the Environment, Liz Truss, used the occasion to call on food producers and retailers to embrace stronger ‘country of origin’ labelling in order to provide better support for British farmers.

survey carried out by YouGov, on behalf of the East of England Co-op, highlighted a gap between shoppers’ purchasing intentions and actual buying behaviour – although 79% of respondents thought it was important for people in Britain to buy locally sourced produce but only 30% said they had actually done so.

Using levy funds for promotion

Since the launch of the new Agricultural & Horticultural Development Board (AHDB), a much contested issue has been whether the use of levy funds for the advertising and promotion of individual sector’s products represented value for money alongside other activities such as research and development to improve their efficiency and productivity.

The debate entered the full glare of publicity with the resignation of Stuart Roberts, the Chairman of AHDB Beef & Lamb (formerly EBLEX), over a matter of principle that the individual sector boards should have freedom to determine how the funds raised are invested. This followed moves by DEFRA to challenge a planned advertising campaign for beef and lamb – although officials latterly gave a final go-ahead for the campaign to proceed.

Roberts also expressed concern for future levies “being lost to the realms of a remote tax that the industry will have little or no influence over”, echoing fears that, in the wake of planned government cuts in the DEFRA budget, the levy boards may be called upon to fund activities which previously fell within DEFRA’s remit.

survey undertaken by the National Pig Association showed that the majority of pig producers favoured the use of levy funds for advertising and promotion purposes.

This followed the successful summer campaign run by AHDB Pork for ‘Pulled Pork’, during which the organisation worked closely with the processing industry in orchestrating strong support from many of the key retailers. The campaign achieved a 19% increase in pork shoulder sales during the campaign period, when overall fresh pork sales were on a downward trend.

Sales increase achieved in a declining market.