Speaking at the David Black Awards, held at the House of Lords in London last month, Stewart Houston, chairman of BPEX – the levy-paying organisation representing UK pig producers – called for a full-time agricultural expert to be appointed in Beijing to assist with growing pig meat exports to China.
While he welcomed the partnership on exports between industry and government, which was “really paying dividends as exports continue to grow year on year”, he wanted faster action on market access. “It is frustrating that AHDB [Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board] offered to co-fund an agricultural specialist in the Beijing embassy over 18 months ago and we are no nearer to filling that important post.”
Houston also urged government to resist calls to allow processed waste food to be used in pig feed. “When I think about the work industry and government have put into market access, I shudder at the risk presented by the unadvised call to process waste food and feed it to our pigs,” he warned. “We must resist the siren calls of the do-gooders behind this proposal, who simply don't understand the unintended consequences of another exotic disease outbreak.”
In an appeal to the supermarkets, he called for closer links along the pig meat supply chain. “We haven’t made very much progress at all in the year,” said Houston. “The respective parties are so focused on today that we can’t get them thinking about tomorrow. But we won’t give up trying.”
‘Blow people’s minds’
This year’s David Black Award was made to vet Pete Bown, for his distinguished record in the field of pig health management. In his acceptance speech, Bown said: “In the next few years pig farmers in this country are going to be able to avail themselves of amazing genetic improvements that will blow many people’s minds. To take full advantage of that potential we need to go on improving our [pig] health status. Without health you can’t achieve genetic potential.”
Bown, who in 2010 authored the industry’s 10-year Pig Health and Welfare Strategy, stressed the need to protect the UK’s borders from potentially catastrophic new pig diseases around the EU’s periphery.