Cambridgeshire firm, Hygene Pigs, is set to cash in on a new agreement allowing Britain to export breeding pigs to China.
The deal and future business stemming from the agreement is expected to be worth around £45 million to the British pig industry over the next five years.
John Millard at Hygene Pigs, formerly known as JJ Genetics and based in Caxton, hailed the breakthrough as “fabulous news” for the company against a tough backdrop for the industry.
“We last exported to China in 2006-07 so the new export deal represents a terrific opportunity for our firm and a saviour for the UK industry,” he said.
Hygene sells for a consortium of British breeders and the China deal brings welcome respite for most firms in the UK industry who have battled against high prices of feed; the cost of grain in Britain has doubled in recent months.
It was John’s company that in August 2008 sent the first consignment of breeding pigs to Asia since foot-and-mouth had stopped all exports of breeding animals; 44 pigs were sent to the Philippines at that time.
John said: “We are experienced exporters and our pigs are healthier than they have ever been. In terms of lean tissue I would say that the UK and Ireland’s best breeders are certainly No.1 in Europe so I’m not surprised China is so keen to get our product again.
“It’s very expensive for China to import our animals so the quality of the meat has to be absolutely top notch. They have to be rigorously tested for disease and a plane has to be chartered to get the pigs out there.”
John, who has been in the industry since he was 15, was only 19 when the firm exported its first pigs – to Romania.
“But the industry has changed enormously in the intervening years,” he says.
“Every market wants product better but cheaper. One of our major selling points is the traceability of our animals right through the supply chain.
“We get our pigs as natural as we can and customers appreciate that quality. It’s a tough industry with rising overheads at the moment so the China deal is a terrific boost for all concerned.”
The UK government did a brilliant job securing the new export agreement on the eve of sending a heavyweight delegation, led by David Cameron, to China.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “This agreement gives a valuable boost to the British pig industry and is already delivering results.”
The pigs will begin to be flown out shortly, the first export of British breeding pigs to China for three years. With artificial insemination techniques, an adult boar can sire 6,000 piglets a year.
Agreement has also been reached on health certification to allow a start to be made on the export of UK pigmeat to China.
British industry officials say that pig meat exports to China have the potential to rise to over £40 million pounds per annum if all UK meat processing plants are approved.
• PHOTOGRAPH: John Millard (centre) at Hygene Pigs