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When changes first become challenges and then new opportunities.

Actually, the 30th anniversary of the European Pig Producer (EPP) Club should have been celebrated in 2020. Now, after a two-year break, Europe's pig producers could finally come together again to inform themselves and network intensively.   

EPP President Gert van Beek, who was confirmed in office at the general meeting, appealed in his opening speech at the EPP Congress in Tiel (Netherlands) to look positively ahead despite what is probably the most difficult phase in the industry for decades and to seek opportunities for one's own business in the numerous challenges. The title of the annual meeting "Full chances ahead - in a rapidly changing environment" was therefore very well chosen. His appeal to show solidarity with each other was also well received by the 250 participants.

Van Beek was pleased to welcome two of his predecessors in office, Benny Gussinklo and Erik Thijssen, as well as the Vice President of the DLG, Philipp Schulze Esking, among the numerous guests. In his welcoming address, the latter emphasised the good cooperation between EPP and DLG.

Schulze Esking congratulated the European Pig Producers on their 32nd anniversary, after the 30th club anniversary in 2020 had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. He looked back at the foundation of the network, which was launched in 1990 on the initiative of forward-looking pig farmers from Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany together with the DLG. Much has changed since then. But the European idea and the cross-border exchange are more important than ever in these times. Corona, African swine fever and now the war in Ukraine have led to massive upheavals in the markets and thus have a strong influence on the competitiveness of global pork production. Creative discourse and an active exchange of experiences are therefore more important than ever to find new and innovative solutions for one's own business. In the EPP network, this is done in a familiar way despite the almost 600 members from 23 countries. 

The EPP Congress took place from 18-20 May 2022 in the Netherlands. In the symposium on the first day, Justin Sherrard of Rabobank noted that production in Spain would grow more slowly in 2022 than the last two years. He predicted that feed prices will remain high until 2023 and attributed this to the war in Ukraine and climate change. For him, sustainability and animal welfare continue to be megatrends to which the industry must respond. He sees the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the entire value chain as another major challenge.

In addition to these megatrends, Sheppard also sees the following current trends:

  • More productivity and efficiency on farms, e.g. with the help of digitalisation.
  • More (better) knowledge about the customer (consumer)
  • More cooperation in the value chain

René Savelberg, former CEO at McDonalds and self-employed management consultant, concluded with a refreshing presentation of what else is important in addition to good products, intelligent marketing and qualified specialists in order to be able to provide optimal services. For him, changes first mean challenges, from which opportunities then arise. Charles Darwin already said that it is not the strongest who survive but those who can adapt best. Savelberg adapts the three key factors to this

  • Standardisation (of processes and products)
  • Partnerships ("Growth Partner")
  • Strong team ("Powerhouse")

With the help of several examples, he impressively illustrated that a transformation process can succeed with these key factors.

On the two following days, the participants were able to get to know practical examples of transformation processes during the excursions to interesting companies as well as companies from the upstream and downstream sectors, which were discussed intensively afterwards.