Opinion: Top prices for Christmas ham

Margo AndraeCountryman
Prices for Australian pigs have already increased from an average of $2.5/kg 12 months ago to be nudging $4/kg more recently, writes Margo Andrae.
Camera IconPrices for Australian pigs have already increased from an average of $2.5/kg 12 months ago to be nudging $4/kg more recently, writes Margo Andrae. Credit: Danella Bevis

Rising prices for Australian pork are receiving considerable media coverage, with warnings that consumers will need to budget when buying Australian ham for festive season gatherings.

Higher retail prices for fresh Australian pork products, as much as 40 per cent in the past six months, have seen comparable increases in farmgate returns for producers.

Prices for Australian pigs have already increased from an average of $2.5/kg 12 months ago to be nudging $4/kg more recently.

Farmgate returns of $2.50/kg, especially when factoring in high feed-grain prices, were well below the cost of production.

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Now, more sustainable prices are providing some much-needed relief for local producers who have endured squeezed margins for too long.

The global spread of African swine fever, which is driving up pork prices, has given us the opportunity to reiterate to consumers the importance of choosing healthy, disease-free Australian pork.

On November 20, Australian Pork Limited launched a new campaign to promote Australian ham in the lead-up to Christmas, with 30 influential voices and members of the pork industry coming together in Sydney for a special festive lunch.

Chef and food personality Manu Feildel attended the event and said it was an opportunity to hear directly from producers how imported pork affected farmers’ livelihoods, but also to celebrate the Australian industry.

As we’re saying, the greatest gift an Australian pig farmer can receive this Christmas is for Australian families to serve up Australian-grown ham on December 25.

The ASF situation has also provided the momentum for industry to achieve significant biosecurity improvements.

Australian Pork Limited chief executive Margo Andrae.
Camera IconAustralian Pork Limited chief executive Margo Andrae. Credit: Tom Dawkins

One particularly important outcome was confirmation by the Federal Government in early November that a national feral pig co-ordinator would be established.

APL has led calls for a nationally co-ordinated approach to feral pig management, especially given feral herds are a potential transmitter of ASF.

The new co-ordinator will be based with APL, giving our organisation the chance to play a pivotal role in managing feral pig populations and the risk they pose our domestic herd.

APL is also looking at opportunities arising from the unprecedented disruption of global meat markets, caused by ASF.

As China offsets declines in its domestic production by absorbing more of the global supply of pigmeat, there are significant export opportunities for Australian product.

The chance to increase our exports to existing markets and gain access to new markets is one we must capitalise on.

The 2019 APL Delegates Forum and Annual Conference, held in Melbourne on November 13 and 14, provided a timely and highly interactive setting to share updates regarding ASF and industry’s crisis and recovery plan, as well as market analysis covering pig prices and feed costs.

Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie took part in the forum via an excellent video question and answer session, while exciting developments in research, innovation and technology showed the future is indeed bright for our industry.

Guest speakers included Dr Narelle Clegg, from the Department of Agriculture, Sharon Starick, from Animal Health Australia and chairwoman of the Australian Pork Industry Quality Assurance Program, and Dr Sam Allen, from AHA, and Dr Sarah Britton, from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.

APL’s recently confirmed chairman Andrew Baxter led discussions on APL’s strategic plan consultation.

Producer feedback from a preview of APL’s new TV ads was also very positive, with the roll-out of the video campaign to start in early February.

At the AGM, Edwina Beverage was re-elected as an APL director and Mark McLean was elected as a new director. We acknowledge retiring directors Kathy Grigg, and Andrew Johnson for their contributions to industry.

Thanks also to delegates and members who attended and ensured the forum was a genuine success.

Between the Delegates’ Forum and the Australasian Pig Science Association Conference in Adelaide on November 17-20, I gained extremely valuable face-to-face insight and encouragement at an informal meeting with South Australian pork producers at Tintinara, organised by Andrew Johnson.

Direct feedback from those working inside the farm gate is always very gratefully received.

The experience talking to producers from the Murray, Mallee and Upper South East regions of South Australia confirmed to me the resilience of Australia’s pork producers and the significant value our $5.3 billion industry adds to rural communities.

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