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Authour Introduction: Tina Koutouleas
Tina Koutoulea s is a n Aus tra lia n enthus ia s tic s upporter of a gric ulture with a degree in s c ienc e, ma tc hing qua lific a tions a s a n educ a tionis t a nd a member of The Aus tra lia n Ins titute of Agric ultura l Sc ienc e & Tec hnology. She is c urrently ba s ed in Denma rk. To unders ta nd the funda menta l differenc es between Aus tra lia n a nd Europea n idea s on s us ta ina ble a gric ulture, s he s et out on a roa d trip a c ros s Denma rk to ta lk to s ome of the mos t influentia l people in the indus try. This is the firs t of report to c ome from her res ea rc h a c tivities .
An Overview of Danish Agriculture from The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries by AIA member, Tina Koutouleas
Photo Caption: Denma rk is the only c ountry in the EU where pigs outnumber the c ountry’s inha bita nts . In fa c t, 2.2 times a s ma ny pigs a s people live in Denma rk. (Photography courtesy of Lars Christian Sørensen)
Meet the Ministry
Lars Christian Sørensen has worked as a senior commercial advisor for the Danish Embassy in Canberra for over 5 years. He has recently returned to his home country, Denmark, to work for the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries as an Analyst. Lars and his colleagues support the Danish AgriFish Agency’s service of private farmers, fisheries, horticultural professionals as well as the international relations behind agricultural export.
Fact and Figures
With a population of only 5.6 million and a total land space of 43,000 km2 (66% of which is used as farmland), the Danes are a European agricultural superpower. They produce approximately 2 million tons of pork produce and live piglets per year combined, of which around 90% is exported.
4.7 billion kg of milk-derived products each year come from Danish Farmers and they are also the world's largest producer of mink fur. Needless to say the agricultural export industry is booming for Denmark. According to figures from the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, the Danish food cluster (this is all facets of agricultural/food production, packaging and export division) employs over 180,000 people.
Lets Talk Pig Production
Denmark is renowned worldwide for their pork products and this is no accident. For over 100 years Danish farmers have relied on pork production as a major source of income and as a result they have developed the “pig-know-how” explains Lars. The Danish pig meat industry focuses on management systems which track the production and slaughter of pigs. They also monitor preferable genetics, feed, technology and optimising overall animal health. Developments in this sector over the last 20 years can be attributed to the “Contract for UK production” which was created as a set of industry standards for the export of pork produce to the United Kingdom. These standards specify increased space and a higher level of animal welfare for Danish pig products destined for the UK. With this as a working model, the Danish pig meat industry's emphasis was to offer quality of produce in compliance with the EN45011 standard. (For more info on this visit: http://www.pigresearchcentre.dk/Pig%20Production/Contract%20for %20Production%20of%20UK%20Pigs.aspx). In terms of pig meat production, Denmark now boasts animal welfare regulation that exceeds those recommended by E UC A P (European Union Common Agricultural Policy). Given this national focus, Denmark has achieved a significant decrease in piglet mortality (now 22.4%), an increase in the Feed Conversion Ratio (1.95) and also an increased number of piglets weaned per sow per year (29.6).
One of the most noted trends in Danish agriculture is the rapid decline of full-time farmers in business. This impacts the structural development of farming systems. “We are now seeing fewer and bigger farms than ever before” explains Lars. This is not a uncommon trend given the increased efficiency amongst the agricutural sector world-wide. Along with this, Danish Agriculture is competing for over 2.6 million hectares of farm land with urbanisation projects. “With a 1.9% fertility rate and an increased life expectancy, our population is increasing and with the requirements from other land uses this puts a competitive strain on the land needed for agricultural purposes” explains Lars.
Another point of interest is the production of organic products. Currently, the import of EU certified, organically-grown products and seeds exceeds those exported. Given the consumer demand for chemical and pesticide free produce, there is currently bipartisan support to increase organic farmland from 7% to 15% by 2020.
The application, storage and dosage of fertiliser and manure is restricted in Denmark. This causes a gaping separation between the policy makers and the farming community. Nitrate leeching into water tables is one of the biggest environmental concerns surrounding agricultural production. With strict governmental measures in place, the eutrophication of water sheds has slowly become less and less, however this is still a
pressing issue for the ongoing nutrient management debate. Fertiliser allowance is based on crop, land size and number of farm animals occupying that land. The procurement and use of fertiliser purchased from outside the country (such as bordering countries like Germany) is not only frowned upon but illegal. Farmers face heavy penalties if found to be using unaccounted amounts of fertiliser on their land.
Currently, the Danish AgriFish Agency and university researchers are working on a fertiliser mapping project which can provide policy makers with a detailed insight into the nutrient leeching capacity within specified plots of land. This tool can be used to offer some farmers increased access to fertiliser, provided they apply it with regard to the topography of their land and the nearby water bodies. “This is a labour intensive project but it is worthwhile as it is expected to provide personalised land management advice to the Danish farmers” says Lars.
Bio-Gas on the way up
The Ministry is also diligent in the area of methane emission from animal agricultural practices. Since 1988, there has been ongoing development of the infrastructure and technology surrounding B i oG a sp l a n t s . Livestock farmers now have access to these BioGas Plants where they can transport their manure for further processing. There, it is mixed and co-digested with flotation sludge from fish processing industry, tannery waste and smaller amounts of fodder waste. The methane is extracted and used as an alternative energy supply and the farmers are allocated their portion of manure which has now been converted into a more stable and valuable fertiliser source. The macro- nutrient content and dry matter is also determined before delivering it to the farmers storage tanks. The overall cost of producing biogas in this manner is typically 130-142 DKK (approx. $24 - $26 AUD) per GJ, and 154-166 DKK (approx. $28 - $31 AUD) per GJ in its upgraded form. Governmental policy is looking to promote the sale of biogas through the natural gas grid and within the transport sector. Biogas, as an upgraded product, has the potential to replace fossil fuel consumption in the transport sector and is a particularly suitable for heavy-duty transport, which is difficult to convert to electricity. The current trajectory for biogas production is expected to double before 2020, from 4.3PJ (1 petajoules=1.0E+15 joules) to around 10PJ.
For more information about Danish Animal Health, Fertilisation Policy and BioGas developments visit The Ministry of Food, Agricultural and Fisheries website: h tt p : // e n.fv m .dk /t h e - mi n i s t r y /
Meet the Ministry Fact and Figures Lets Talk Pig Production Perspectives Contentious Issues