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Fewer pigs but pork production steady
By TONY BENNY
KIWI PORK: Pig numbers are down in New
Zealand, but efficient producers mean actual
meat tonnages have not fallen significantly.
"The industry has certainly dropped in
sow numbers but the productivity per sow
has increased from genetic gain we ve
experienced over the last five years." ---
NZ Pork chairman Ian Carter.
The number of pigs farmed in New
Zealand has fallen by 40,000 over the
past year as producers react to the high
cost of feed, but the total tonnage of meat
produced has not fallen significantly, says
New Zealand Pork chairman Ian Carter.
The annual kill has fallen from about 720,000
to 680,000, Carter said.
"That's been a trend since 2007 when there
was a spike in grain prices; it certainly put
some significant pressure on.
"On top of that we've seen other land uses
showing good returns so some producers
have made the decision to exit, based around
the value of the land for dairying and the like."
But Carter says the 120 to 140 registered
commercial producers, who are mainly based
in Canterbury, are keeping tonnages up.
"What tends to happen is the more efficient
producers stay behind and what we've got is a
pretty specialised industry now as opposed to
producers who were, say, cropping farmers
with a few pigs and a dairy operation.
"The industry has certainly dropped in sow
numbers but the productivity per sow has
increased from genetic gain we've experi-
enced over the last five years," Carter said.
The industry in New Zealand is too small for
significant genetic gains to me made here
without importing semen from overseas,
mainly North America.
"There are very strict biosecurity requirements
around that; it comes in as frozen semen and
fresh semen and only goes to certain farms."
Carter said the challenge for the industry is
make pork more popular with New Zealand
"What we've got is a fairly traditional New
Zealand consumer that hasn't largely seen
pork as a regular consumed item.
''It's more a speciality type meat as opposed
to the rest of the world where pork is the
biggest consumed protein."
The industry is working hard on marketing
and is also training New Zealand butchers to
cut carcases into more convenient cuts.
"We haven't been good at putting our meat
into a more convenient form.
''It's things like schnitzels, mini roasts,
butterfly steaks, diced pork and mince.
''Schnitzel is a great product but our butchers
don't tend to present it well because
traditionally we've had a lighter pig that
doesn't lend itself to muscle-cutting.
''So there's more of a drive now to a larger pig
which is good for the producer to spread their
fixed costs over a greater weight of animal
and also lends more to cutting it up like a
cattle beast with your sirloin steaks and
schnitzels and that sort of thing."
Compared with overseas markets, New
Zealand pigs tend to be small, averaging
about 68kg compared with 77kg in Australia
and 100kg in North America. Carter said that is
what New Zealand butchers prefer.
"Our retailers want to be able to buy the
whole carcase and cut it up simply and sell the
bone and everything and provide the
consumer with a chop with bone in and a leg
roast with the bone in and keep their model
simple," he said.
"One of the big challenges of the industry is
bring our retailers and consumers along to
seeing these more convenience cuts like in
the beef sector."
Carter said the New Zealand industry had
learnt to live with a level of imported product,
made into bacon and ham, but it remained
opposed to imported pork being sold without
further processing because of the risk of
disease coming into the country.
"Coming into Christmas there's a great
demand for legs and we just can't produce
enough and we don't produce enough
middles for bacon throughout 12 months but
then we produce too many shoulders.
"The difference between us and our red meat
cousins is they just export whatever isn't in
demand in New Zealand whereas we're solely
domestic consumption and we import to
balance up the demand of cuts."
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