'Watershed' year for pork industry

NZPork chairman Ian Carter has described the last financial year as ''something of a watershed'' for the industry, despite the challenges it faces.

In the organisation's annual report, the North Otago pig farmer said farmers had faced both a fluctuating schedule and high grain prices.

For him, the year had reinforced the need for co-ordination across the industry.

''For our industry to survive, all sectors need to add value, not just cost,'' he said.

The Ministry for Primary Industries' proposed new import health standards (IHS) for the importation of pork from countries with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) remained an ongoing issue and used a substantial amount of NZPork's resources.

The judicial review judgement, delivered in May, did not support NZPork's position and the organisation then appealed to the Court of Appeal in November. Judgement was expected early this year.

NZPork was keen to work with the ministry to agree on a process where scientists worked to resolve the differences in the level of estimated risk around PRRS, Mr Carter said.

''We are also keen to ensure that the proposed IHS and surveillance and response arrangements take into account fair and reasonable risk assessment of all scientific evidence,'' he said.

The 2011-12 financial year ''ended with beginnings'' - a range of new strategies and objectives, a new communications approach, a renewed marketing campaign, a new budget and a new business plan.

NZPork chief executive Owen Symmans said a strong strategy for communications had been established, as the industry needed consumers and stakeholders to understand what it represented in terms of quality, food safety, animal welfare practices and product.

The industry had many stakeholders, ''including a general public that cares little and knows less about us, our product and our practices''.

Negative publicity had ''cast a shadow'' over the industry in the past and both retailers and the industry remained sensitive to the issue.

''With increased marketing promotion, we can expect the public to have a higher level of interest in our product and our industry.

''This is why it is essential that we manage our reputation,'' Mr Symmans said.