GERMANY

ISN: Pig industry between frustration and confidence

Pork

The pig industry is currently caught between frustration and confidence. The economic situation for pig farming companies has improved significantly again after the crisis years from 2019 to 2022. Nevertheless, the economic climate in pig farming is extremely poor. Many pig farmers still intend to get out. The main reason is ever new and ever higher requirements, more and more bureaucracy and a lack of planning security and perspective.

Posted on Feb 23 ,00:10

ISN: Pig industry between frustration and confidence

As part of the ISN general meeting in Osnabrück, ISN chairman Heinrich Dierkes and ISN managing director Dr. Torsten Staack about the current situation and makes demands on politicians.

Pig farming in Germany has experienced a bitter wave of abandonment in the past few years of crisis. In the last three years alone, pig production in this country has fallen by a fifth. The economic situation on the farms has now improved significantly. The prices for piglets and fattening pigs have been at a very high level since last year. And the further price prospects are also good given the decline in production in Germany and throughout Europe.

The bad mood among pig farmers was already very clear in the economic climate index, which was published by the ISN last autumn and which is based on the answers from around 500 pig farmers. The willingness to invest in pig farming is therefore extremely low. In particular, the work of the federal government was rated as poorly as it could hardly be worse. The main reason for the dissatisfaction was increasing bureaucracy, the lack of planning security and the constantly new and changing requirements. It is precisely these reasons that continue to lead to companies leaving and are also reflected in the farmers' protests of the last few months.

Dr. Torsten Staack explains: The background to the bad mood is also the cost screw, which is being continually increased by political guidelines. Even the record revenues for fattening pigs and piglets are more than eaten up by costs. In particular, the large cost blocks that will arise in the coming years, including animal husbandry and emissions requirements as well as the conversion to higher husbandry levels, are of great concern to pig farmers. This means that local pig farmers are exposed to unfair competition from their European colleagues.

Heinrich Dierkes adds: Almost every one of us pig farmers in this country will face additional costs of one or several million as a result of new requirements. In the end, producer prices would have to rise by at least a quarter or even significantly more to cover all of this. Most of us doubt that such a price increase will be permanent.

Dr. Torsten Staack explains using a concrete example: Animal owners need clarity on how they should set up their businesses. They cannot seal their stables tomorrow to filter the exhaust air and reopen the same stables the day after tomorrow for animal welfare.

Heinrich Dierkes states : And when, at the height of the protests, the federal government pulls the next cue from the regulatory law - meaning the change to the Animal Protection Act - even though we have not yet been able to implement all the other requirements, then the intentions expressed are about reducing bureaucracy is just talk without content.

Heinrich Dierkes continues: Seen from the perspective of a pig farmer, the much-vaunted transformation of the stables is going more than smoothly. You could say that the engine is not only sputtering properly, but that politicians are driving the cart straight into the wall. How can it be that different legal requirements created in parallel contradict each other with overlapping areas of responsibility? Again and again we see political pieces instead of an overall concept.

The ISN chairman Heinrich Dierkes gives an example: Even though it is clear to all of us that the high additional costs cannot be financed through the market alone, we are given partial proposals such as those made by Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir with the levy on meat and meat products brought into play, no further. Not because it can't be a useful instrument, but because it hasn't been thought through to the end. Only when it is clearly regulated how the money will reach us pig farmers safely and not evaporate in the federal budget, then it can become a reality.

Heinrich Dierkes therefore explicitly addresses his demands to all three parties in the government in Berlin: We need a stop to new legal requirements until we have implemented the requirements that have already been decided on time. The parliamentary group leaders also have to prove that they are serious about releasing the stable conversion brake! It is unbearable how representatives of the governing parties argue openly and without any desire to find a solution about the central question of financing. Statements about how and under what conditions the farmers actually get the money are essential. Likewise, a real dialogue with the affected actors who are supposed to master the conversion. Both are currently missing! Dierkes further makes it clear: Only a company that stands on both feet economically has the strength to cope with future challenges and changes.

Finally, Heinrich Dierkes comments : So far we have always made progress when the economy took its turn and things became concrete. Against this background, at this year's ISN general meeting, top representatives from Germany's leading slaughterhouses will be on the podium discussing the requirements and consequences resulting from the political guidelines for the pork sector and their structures. The main topic is how the requirements - for example on the labeling of meat or on sustainability and climate protection - can be implemented in a practical way. The husbandry labeling of meat poses major challenges for the entire chain, especially in logistics and meat marketing. Berlin's patchwork also causes problems here . For example, neither the responsible federal states nor the economy know where animal owners have to report their husbandry levels and how the controls will be carried out. The pig fatteners’ notification must be submitted by August 1, 2024 at the latest, in less than six months, adds Dr. Torsten Staack.

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