The British Pig & Poultry Fair, partnered by ABN, is returning to Stoneleigh on 10-11 May, offering a long-awaited opportunity for the industry to get together and discuss challenges and opportunities.
Pig, poultry and egg producers have endured a volatile couple of years during Covid. “It’s important for people to attend, because we haven’t seen each other in person or been together as an industry for so long,” says Danny Johnson, general manager at ABN. “Coming together is always important, but this year even more so.”
Aimee Mahony, chief poultry adviser at the NFU, agrees: “We are facing some big challenges like avian influenza and labour shortages, and being able to exchange ideas and listen to viewpoints from people representing different parts of the supply chain is so important.”
To address key difficulties across the sectors and encourage blue sky thinking and discussion, the Fair features a packed forum programme with top industry speakers holding the floor over both days.
In the pig forum, speakers will be examining labour shortages and rising costs as well as the impact of having more pigs than planned on farm, says Mr Johnson. “This has been an incredibly difficult year. Attending the forums and understanding what learnings can be taken from the past 12 months might help us to plan our way back to a sustainable supply chain for the future.”
The current challenges – and Covid – have only exacerbated feelings of isolation. Rob Mutimer, who farms 750 outdoor sows in Norfolk and is chairman of the National Pig Association, says: “Mental health is a key issue for farming and recently it has become even more isolating; being stuck at the end of a farm drive is a lonely place to be. The Fair is a chance to see people and talk to them; I think it is really important that everyone attends.”
The poultry sector has its own set of difficulties, with soaring input costs and a devastating avian influenza outbreak.
Demand for eggs soared during Covid, which boosted prices. But now that demand has reduced, leaving the sector in a situation of oversupply and low prices, says Robert Gooch, chief executive of BFREPA. “We need to meet up to talk about it and get a feeling for what the future holds.”
However, there has been positive movement with feed contracts, which BFREPA has been trying to get off the ground for 10 years. “The number of members with feed tracker or fixed price contracts has grown from 0% to 30% and we want to see that rise further; it’s a solution that we’re working on,” says Mr Gooch.
In the broiler sector, consumer demand remains strong, with chicken the nation’s number one choice of meat. However, customers are increasingly demanding higher welfare, slower grown chicken with lower stocking rates, says Ms Mahony. “That is a challenge, but businesses are looking at ways to offer consumers a choice, rather than a full switch for the whole sector.”
All producers will clearly continue to look at ways to maximise efficiency and productivity in a changing environment, and the ABN forums will focus on driving performance in the most sustainable way as the industry continues to work towards meeting net zero targets.
With such a variety of issues facing the sectors, it’s vital to come together to try and address them, says Mr Gooch. “Sitting on your farm and worrying isn’t going to help; whatever the challenge is, talking to fellow producers and sharing information at the Fair can only be a good thing.”
- The British Pig & Poultry Fair takes place at Stoneleigh Park on May 10-11. For more information or to book your free ticket visit pigandpoultry.org.uk.