Portugal: Pig farmers prepare sustainability measures

The Portuguese Federation of Pig Farmers Associations (FPAS) said that the drought and the increase in prices of production factors might be “an opportunity” to invest in the efficient use of water and effluent management.

The “Roadmap for environmental and social sustainability in pig farming” is the project that FPAS is undertaking in partnership with the University of Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro, the University of Évora and the Higher Institute of Agronomy of the University of Lisbon, to identify the gaps in the sector and “create a guiding document for the next 10 years.

Speaking to Lusa, the president of the FPAS, David Neves, said that the project focuses on three aspects, namely the recovery of pig effluents, so that they can be treated as a resource instead of waste, the efficient use of water, animal feed, atmospheric emissions and energy efficiency in farms, with measures that can “reduce the energy bill of farms nd , but essentially the energy bill of the country.

The president of the FPAS was speaking to Lusa during a visit to a pig farm in Salvaterra de Magos, Santarém district, which has already implemented measures to improve water efficiency.

In relation to the environmental impact of the sector, David Neves said that “it is always relative”, stressing that pork is one of the most consumed meats in Portugal and considering that associating livestock production to environmental issues is “inverting the reality of the process”.

“We have the particularity of producing a good that is essential for the daily life of each one of us, which is the meat that reaches each one of us, and, naturally, this good has an environmental consequence, but if it is properly worked on, properly mitigated, we can turn what has been a problem into a great opportunity,” he said.

According to data from the National Emissions Inventory, produced by the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA), published in March 2020, the overall weight of pig farming in greenhouse gas emissions in Portugal is “only 0.34% in the country’s total emissions and just 5.25% of the livestock sector”.

regarding the impact of the drought situation in mainland Portugal and the increase in cereal prices, extensive production is the one that is already experiencing difficulties, he said, considering that the current context may also be “an opportunity to look at this sector in a different way”, to move forward with measures for environmental and social sustainability of pig breeding.

The increase in pork prices “is an inevitable consequence”, with an increase in the value asked from consumers “close to 30%”, the president of the FPAS added, explaining that the increase in the prices of production factors did not start with the war in Ukraine, because this dynamic began “in May last year, at a time when the sector itself plunged into a deep crisis”.

“It was aggravated by the war and, naturally, this substantial increase in production factors, namely those related to food and energy, necessarily means that consumer prices also have to accompany this evolution, under penalty of complete bankruptcy of the sector and then, yes, the country will be left with a particularly important problem, which has to do, naturally, with the lack of resources, with external dependence in relation to a good as important as meat,” he said.

The context of rising costs of production factors is associated with an international situation, “namely, with regard to cereals, with the great demand from the Chinese market,” said David Neves, also noting the existence of a drop in the price paid to producers since July of last year, as well as a contraction of consumption due to the covid-19 pandemic.

In terms of the size of the pig production sector in Portugal, which is located “from the Minho to the Algarve”, there are “around 4,000” larger pig farms and “tens of thousands of small ones spread throughout the country”, some of which are family-owned, because “pork continues to be the meat most consumed by the Portuguese”.

Therefore, he added, “there is still a tradition in many areas of the country of having small farms, with some animals for family consumption”.

As for the destination of what is produced, about 70% is for self-supply in Portugal, and the rest is for export, from China to neighbouring Spain, according to the president of the FPAS, who also noted the ability of Portuguese producers to compete in the world’s main markets in terms of pork production.