The news was announced today (November 4) by food and farming minister George Eustice, speaking at the pig industry’s David Black Award presentation at the House of Lords during British Sausage Week. Truss’s trip could also coincide with the appointment– after much delay– of an agricultural specialist in Beijing to assist UK exporters.
“Liz Truss will be going to China in December to have another push at trying to open up the market there for pigs’ trotters and other fifth quarter parts of the carcass,” said Eustice. “Because we all know that if we can open those markets for some of those parts of the carcass that there is no market for here, we can actually significantly add to the value of the industry.”
Permanent official in China
Eustice also announced that the much delayed permanent representative for UK exporters to China based in Beijing could be appointed soon.
“There is also some progress made to the long-standing ambition that the AHDB [Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board] have had to have a permanent official based at the embassy in China to do all of the work on relationship building necessary to open up these markets and crucially to get Chinese veterinary inspectors here to certify some of our plants,” said Eustice.
Stewart Houston, chairman of BPEX, the pig industry’s levy paying body, had called on the government to press ahead with the appointment of this agricultural specialist as long ago as November 2013.
Subsequently, Charles Baughan, md of small Devon-based processor Westaway Sausages, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that, following a trade mission to China made with then environment secretary Owen Paterson, he expected the appointment to be made early in 2014.
Even in April this year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was known to be interviewing candidates for this post. But still no appointment was made.
‘Eighth largest exporter of pork’
The domestic pig meat sector has had a relatively good two years, having suffered badly from low prices in 2012. “The sector has had another decent year and that is helped by the volume and value of exports, up to 270,000t and valued at £340M,” said Houston. “That makes us the eighth largest exporter of pork in the world, which I think is a fantastic achievement for a small industry.”
On the appointment of the Beijing-based agricultural specialist, Houston remarked: “It’s been a long time in the making, but we hope to have someone in place by the end of this year.”
Eustice also commented on the revived fortunes of the pig sector: “The pig industry had a terrible time about three years ago. The last couple of years have definitely been better, and although prices have eased back a little bit in recent months, generally this has been a reasonably good year.
“We have seen during 2013 the value of pig meat went up by about 12% and the industry went up to about £1.3bn last year.We’ve now seen four consecutive years of pig production in this country growing and expanding. So I think we are in a positive state at the moment.”
Ladies in Pigs
This year’s David Black Award was made to the organisation ‘Ladies in Pigs’ (LIPs), a body set up in 1991 by Glenda Montgomery and Miranda Shufflebotham to promote the consumption of pig meat. It is only the second time in 54 years that the award has been made to an organisation rather than an individual. Today, LIPs comprises about 300 volunteers.
Westaway Sausages’ Baughan was also presented with this year’s ‘Sausage Oscar’–an award made for significant contribution to sausage promotion– by BPEX chief executive Mick Sloyan at today’s event.
Introducing the David Black Award, which was presented to LIPS’s chairwoman Sue Woodall by Eustice, Sloyan announced that a new promotional campaign would be launched next year to increase consumption of pig meat by younger people. Sloyan said this would focus on the increasing popularity of products such as ‘pulled pork’. It’s all part of a new BPEX strategy to “rejuvenate the image of pork”, said Houston.
Next year LIPs would be changing its focus to campaigning in more urban environments rather than rural ones where it was “preaching to the converted”, said Woodall. LIPs members would also be taking a presence at urban music festivals targeted at younger people, she added.