Simon Grey, General Manger Russia, CIS, and Europe, Genesus
For the past 2 months, I have been once again able to travel in Russia and catch up with some clients. Working remotely and meeting online has its place in business, but it is, today, not as effective as face-to-face meetings with clients.
The pig price in Russia over the past 3 months has been a little unusual. The following table is weekly reported live pig price per kg.
At the end of summer, prices were relatively high on the back of losses from ASF outbreaks and some of the larger companies going to the market to fill slaughter places.
Pig price fell dramatically on the news that Russia had agreed to limited imports of pork from Brazil tariff-free in 2022, but have quickly rebounded. Russia is dominated by large fully integrated companies that have feed, farms, slaughter /processing, and many retail. The rapid change in price seems to me to be a reflection of the relatively low numbers of pigs traded live.
Being back in Russia at talking face to face has been refreshing and also informative. It seems quite a lot has changed within the 2 years I was unable to travel.
Russia is now a net exporter of pork. Still, talk is primarily about increasing export as a way to increase sales. Still little is discussed about increasing domestic sales with better-tasting pork. I was recently told that “nobody can afford to produce tasty pork”. Maybe this perception is a major roadblock for our industry.
- We see no cost of production penalty producing better-tasting pork. We do see a higher FCR, but this is FCR – not cost!!!
- If as an industry we produce an inferior tasting product just because it “costs less to produce” we have some big problems. Could you imagine Apple, or BMW, or any other producer of consumer goods having that attitude?
Interestingly one company I talked with, who a couple of years ago had some issues with too many category 3 pigs (fatter pigs) told me today the problem has gone away. Not by changing genetics, but by adjusting grading system and with better processing techniques and sales.
We have heard a lot about problems with cannibalism, high mortality in sows and growing pigs, prolapse ect. in other parts of the world, in the particular USA. Two years ago when I was last in Russia these were not issues at all. Today they are, and there are from what I am told definite links to certain types of problems to certain genetic types. This is the same as has been experienced in USA and Europe.
Lastly and one which has been a major surprise to me is companies talking about lack of staff to work on pig farms. Russia has always had a lot of people available and willing to work on farms. Like in many other parts of the world this is now changing. One thing we know from countries where there are severe issues with getting staff, having an easy-to-manage pig that farrows on its own, that does not need foster sows, that does not die, that does not eat its pen mates is very very important.
Dealing with all of these problems is not only time-consuming. More importantly, they are demoralising for people. Getting to work in the morning and having to pull dead sows and heavy dead pigs from finisher out of pens and worse still crates is hard physical work. Seeing tons of pigs with bittern tails and ears that need treating and sorting is no pleasure. Even being in pig pens with aggressive pigs is not what people want to do.
Luckily for Russian pig farmers today there is no pressure on welfare. If you look at what Europe wants to impose, no crates for gestation or farrowing, no tail docking, no castration… the requirement for a calm, non-aggressive pig becomes absolutely vital.
Genesus focus for over 20 years on a better-tasting pig, which has involved selecting for high feed intake and not for low FCR is today showing some very important side effects which are becoming more and more economic. Significantly lower mortalities in all stages, significantly less cannibalism, a more relaxed pig, and very easy to manage. Two years ago irrelevant – today important and tomorrow – may be an absolute necessity?
This post was written by Genesus