Boosting exports and a TV advertising campaign are aimed at easing pressure on the pig meat sector in the United Kingdom.
Aiming to help the UK pig meat sector stay economically sustainable in the face of falling pig prices and lackluster demand, the UK’s Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) recently shared tips for boosting pig-meat markets in a webinar titled, “Getting through tough times: Coping with low prices.”
According to AHDB’s Stephen Howarth, pig prices in the UK have been plummeting for more than two years. As long as pig meat production in the European Union continues to grow, there is little prospect of any significant improvement in the market in the short term, he said.
High welfare, environmental standards differentiate UK pig-meat exports
Among the ways to ease pressure on the sector and improve its economic sustainability in the long term is to boost exports, explained Howarth’s colleague, Jonathan Eckley, ADHB’s export trade development manager with the AHDB at the same event.
He explained that exports offer all-important additional markets for UK pig meat, allowing the best value to be extracted from each animal and so optimize returns throughout the supply chain. This can be achieved by adding value to low-value products in the UK, by exporting them further afield or by exporting high-value cuts to those markets where the highest price can be achieved.
Building on a brand of consistently high product quality is one of the keys to success with exports, according to Eckley. The UK’s pig meat brand is linked to its high-welfare and environmental credentials, which have already helped open the market for UK pig meat products in the US and Australia. Product quality and food safety are essential, whatever the market, he stressed.
Building trade relationships
Successful export programs often begin by building on government relationships and may involve many trading organizations to gain an understanding of the market and its culture, and gain the trust and respect of importers. This is especially important in Asia and it can take time, Eckley said.
AHDB Pork and its trading partners have been working on enhancing trading relationships with existing markets and gaining access to new markets for UK pig meat over many years.
These efforts have brought some success, with 186,000 tons of pig meat exported in the first 11 months of 2015. That’s a 100% increase over the last 10 years, according to Eckley, and equates to 28% of total production. For pork offals, exports are up 10-fold over the same period.
With other European Union countries struggling to survive the challenging combination of market conditions that include increasing production, flat demand and even lower prices than in the UK, third-country exports have been the most rewarding in recent years with increase of 5% in volume and 12% in value over the last year.
Top destination for UK pig meat and offals is China. Despite forecasts of a decline in the Chinese economy, prospects for future export opportunities are not significantly dimmed. Of its 1.4-billion population, many continue to move to the cities, giving up backyard pig rearing. There are 300 million middle-class people in China with an income and desire to eat more meat, and the 200 million who regularly shop online for groceries and take-away meals represent a further opportunity for additional pig meat purchases.
With continued market diversification important to drive UK pig meat exports, opportunities are also being explored by AHDB and its partners in the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea as well as West African countries.
With its partners, AHDB accesses 74 markets outside the EU with UK pig meat, helping to maximize the global opportunities to add value to the British pig meat supply chain.
‘Pulled Pork’ promotion at home
On the domestic market, a £2.7-million ($3.8-million) advertising campaign began recently for pulled pork, explained Howarth. Funded by AHDB, the campaign promotes one of the less popular cuts – pork shoulder – as an easy meal to prepare.
Television advertisements will be shown in two successive bursts this year. The first burst coincides with key celebratory events, including Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter, while the second is scheduled to maximize interest in pork around the May holidays, which are prime occasions for roasting joints and cuts.
The TV schedule is being supported by public relations, social media and in-store activity, as well as the development of a range of new recipe ideas available on the lovepork.co.uk.
The pulled pork campaign is the first part of a long-term plan to rejuvenate the image of pork among consumers aged 25 to 55.
For more information on managing the economics of pork production, see Take action when pig margins are squeezed