The qualities of Irish bacon commend it to British consumers and that, according to Bord Bia's UK head, Michael Murphy, is key to increasing market share. The Irish pig industry has consolidated dramatically: In 1997 there 750 pig farms and eight pigmeat plants compared with 625 farms and seven plants now. Of these, four are USDA approved and all operate to internationally recognised standards. The Irish herd has been contracting in the wake of sustained low pig prices. This year, export plants expect to see 8% fewer pigs, with a likely intake of three million head. Since domestic consumption is stable, exports are expected to decline marginally to 130,000 tonnes, retaining the 80/20 split between pork and bacon. The UK is the main pigmeat export market for the Emerald Isle, with volumes of 72,000 tonnes predicted for this year. The main Irish brand in the UK is Galtee and Galtee UK managing director Barry Sturgeon says."We believe that as concern grows for the general safety of food, consumers are seeking products which have a real gate to plate' policy." As well as launching reseable packs, Galtee offers five, seven and 10-rasher packs. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}

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