Pork sector to recover stronger

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Pork CRC's outgoing chief executive Roger Campbell.
Camera IconPork CRC's outgoing chief executive Roger Campbell. Credit: Brendon Cant

Pork CRC’s former chief executive says he firmly believes Australia’s pork industry will emerge from its current challenging situation stronger and more resilient.

It’s been a tough year for Australian pork producers, who have always faced steep competition from importers, especially from Europe.

More recently, an increase in the number of Australian pigs and record-high feed prices put most farmers in the red, with some losing nearly $60 for each pig produced.

Pork CRC former chief executive Roger Campbell stepped down from his role at the non-for-profit in July, after 13 years at the helm.

He said it had been a tough year for the pork industry as prices declined from the lows reached at the end of 2016-2017 and feed prices rose almost monthly.

“I think we are heading in the right direction and our industry is poised to take the next step and become a genuine global player,” Mr Campbell said. “But I believe the industry will emerge from this stronger and more resilient.”

Mr Campbell said the rapid increase in Australian pork supply was driven by an expanding sow herd and better productivity.

He said Australia needed to slash its sow numbers by 59,000 — from 279,000 to 220,000 — to boost market competition. In an ideal world, Australia would produce 4.8 million to 5 million pigs and 380,000 to 400,000 tonnes of pork each year, according to Mr Campbell.

Pork CRC, which was founded in 2005, will close on June 30, 2019.

It will be rolled into Australasian Pork Research Institute Limited (APRIL), which recently appointed Murdoch University professor John Pluske as its inaugural chief scientist and chief executive.

The first version of Pork CRC was originally founded in 2005 with a cash value of $35.75 million, with $25.75 million borne by the Federal Government and $10 million by industry.

A rejigged Pork CRC launched in 2011 with a cash value of $40 million, supported 50/50 by government and industry.

The organisation still has 15 projects on the go, which will be managed by APRIL from June 30.

Its seven-person, skills-based board, which received $97,692 in directors fees this year, will be dissolved. All except for one of its five staff, who was transferred to APRIL, will finish up at the organisation by June 30.

Mr Campbell said he was particularly proud of four “research highlights”, which were detailed in the 2017-2018 annual report. The projects focused on reduced confinement of sows and piglets, herd health management, healthy pork consumption and carbon-conscious nutrient inputs and outputs.

“We saw interest globally in a vaccine developed by Murdoch University for swine dysentery,” he said. “Researchers at South Australian Research and Development Institute developed an eating quality model for Australian pork.

“Those in program four enhanced the AusScan calibrations of grains and protein meals, and demonstrated the industry as a leader in reducing carbon emissions.”

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