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4 questions to … EPP President Gert van Beek

Since 2018 you have been President of the EPP. How would you describe your Presidency?

The first three years were probably the most extraordinary years in the history of the EPP. After my election as presi-dent at the EPP congress in Switzerland, there was only one year that went as planned due to the onset of Covid pandemic shortly after. In the first year it was useful and highly informative to benefit from the extra contact not only with the management of the DLG in Frankfurt but also with the international board through its meetings. This was very helpful because before I became president I wasn’t a member of the EPP board.

From the start for me it was what I expected of how the board of an organization like EPP should work, including meeting new people from not only across Europe but also beyond, sharing knowledge and experience as well as having the quality time for valuable informal discussions and social events alongside the official meetings.

You are the 4th President in the club’s 30 year history. How have the challenges for pig produces changed over these three decades and what are your business plans for the future?

There is certainly a complete change going on in our pig industry and some huge challenges too. As the EPP was founded, there was still a need in many countries to establish their own pork production. This meant there was a fo-cus on increasing both farm capacity and productivity, which for many farmers resulted in a higher need for sharing knowledge and learning from each other directly rather than only learning through books at school or university.

Another important challenge for farmers was how to survive when you have to deal with factors like animal welfare, local and global environmental issues, food safety, labor and an endless list of issues, which are independent of the price of pork. As we all know in the meantime many farmers have decided to give up their business, which in Europe has resulted in the overall number of farms decreasing while the number of pigs has stayed almost the same .

Farmers have taken on the role of business managers, who now need additional skills which was not the case 30 years ago. So these were big changes for both farms and farmers.

In our own farm we are focusing on our SPF nucleus herd located in Lelystad in the Netherlands, which last year expanded further in the same region. The next generation, our oldest daughter, is already actively participating in our farm and I am very proud of that.

Our SPF herd is still very much in demand for new stock breed all over the world. Even so we have our own custom-ers in the Netherlands and Belgium, and a part of our business is to undertake research for many different compa-nies. This diversified business portfolio spreads the risk and gives us confidence for the near future.

What is the role of EPP in the future and what do you expect from our members?

The role of the EPP is still to link our members, share knowledge, experiences and use our great network across Europe and beyond. In every represented country, it’s up to the national branch to organize its own events in a way that’s possible at this point in time. If necessary, a national branch can be supported by the management, the DLG or other board members. Due to the covid pandemic, things have changed over the last year, but we are looking for-ward to finally being able to host our annual congress in 2022 in the Netherlands. Every year, this congress is the highlight of EPP’s calendar and that’s not going to change, in my opinion. We also hope to organize a study trip soon if the conditions allow. Even if we don’t see each other in real life, our members share and support our digital meet-ings, bringing in their ideas to develop the EPP, even in these exceptional times.

At the end of this year you will stand again as candidate for another term as EPP-President. What is your motivation to lead a club of international members from the pig business?

The first three years were too short to visit all national branches due to the covid pandemic. Personally I regret miss-ing the in-person meetings, international congresses or exhibitions in the last two years. At these events we normally meet both, our current and potential new members.

This means that there is still a lot of work to do over the next few years and I hope our members will have the confi-dence to re-elect me and the board.