Branding key to success

Kate MatthewsCountryman
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Retaining qualified staff, the need for strong branding and imported product from overseas and the eastern states are just some of the problems affecting the sustainability of WA's pork industry.

WA Pork Producers Association executive officer Russell Cox said that in 2010-11, a total of 9500 tonnes of pork were imported into WA from Canada, the US and Denmark.

At the same time, an estimated 7500t of surplus product from the eastern states was sold into WA, Mr Cox said.

During the same period, WA produced 35,500t, of which 8500t were exported and the rest sold through fresh pork sales and for further processing.

"The price paid to producers in WA over the last 12 months has held up quite well, given the cost of grain in WA has been on average $80-$100/t dearer than the eastern states," he said.

"In the eastern states mid last year, the cost of producing a 70kg pig dressed out was 240-260c/kg and in WA that figure was 300-330c/kg."

The cost of production per kilo in the US with the current exchange rate was estimated at 145c/kg.

Labour costs are also impacting the industry on a national scale compared to imported product, Mr Cox said.

"The average cost of labour per kilogram of meat produced in Canada, the US and Denmark is 20c/kg compared to Australia which would average between 36-38c/kg," he said.

The future of the industry would be impacted by its ability to recruit qualified employees and like all agricultural industries faced increased competition, especially from the mining industry.

Over the last seven years, Mr Cox said the increasing volume of pork imports had affected production in WA.

Sow numbers had fallen from 33,000 in June 2004 to 27,500 last June.

The 18 per cent contraction has been reflected nationally.

Pig meat produced in WA has also fallen from 45,000t to 35,500t in the same period while fresh pork sales in WA, as a percentage of production, have increased from 50-75 per cent from 2003 to 2011.

To encourage consumers to purchase local product and grow the industry, Mr Cox has been working on developing a WA-specific pork brand for the industry.

"We need to develop a strong brand so people can clearly identify the product is grown out using WA's finest grains so the customer can clearly identify it's a local product compared to those from the east or the imported manufactured product," he said.

With the science and technology now available and being used by producers, the product on the supermarket shelf had never been better for quality and price, Mr Cox said.

The potential for the pork industry in WA to produce high quality product using less arable land with a low carbon footprint was boundless, he said.

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