ALTHOUGH THE UK breeding herd is expected to witness another drop in 2006 the mood within the industry is more confident, Mick Sloyan, chief executive of the British Pig Executive (BPEX) said.

In a presentation at the MLC Outlook conference, on recent EU and UK pig meat trends, Mr Sloyan said that between 2000 and 2005 UK pig meat prices had been more stable compared to the EU-15 which had been more volatile.

He presented data which showed that in October 2005, pork imports had decreased compared to the same period in 2004 and in 2003 when more than 45,000 tonnes of pork was imported into the UK. The amount of bacon imported into the UK in October 2005 had decreased compared with the same month in 2003 and 2004 and compared to September's figures in 2005.

Trends in UK pig slaughterings fell between 1996 and 2004 and are expected to stabilise at 8,945 million head in 2005 and 8,950 in 2006. UK clean pig carcass weights rose between 1996 and 2004 and are expected to remain stable for 2005 and in 2006.

Mr Sloyan said the key issues for the pig meat industry to consider in 2006 were the cost of production, competitiveness and most importantly improving animal health.

Enhancing the image of pork and pork products, particularly in the premium sector was also vital as was addressing government health concerns with regards to meat products.

He said the WTO negotiations would not have a direct impact this year but market access, especially tariff reduction, would have the largest eventual knock-on effect.

He said the WTO timetable was an ambitious one and put pressure on the EU to agree on ever greater cuts and to make a decision about whether pig meat should be defined as a sensitive product.

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