MVZ: Santiago Zúñiga: “AMVECAJ congress is about to complete 28 uninterrupted years of facing challenges and growth”
Interview with President of the Asociación Médicos Veterinarios Especialistas en Cerdos de los Altos de Jalisco (AMVECAJ)
From February 9 to 11, 2022, a new edition of the AMVECAJ congress will be held, which is now in its XXVIII edition. Both the congress and the Asociación Médicos Veterinarios Especialistas en Cerdos de los Altos de Jalisco (AMVECAJ) were founded in 1994 with the aim of offering training to professionals in the area. Very soon the congress became an indispensable event in the region. We speak with the current president of AMVECAJ, the MVZ. Santiago Zúñiga, who tells us more about the association, the success of the congress and about pig farming in Mexico today.
Tell us briefly about the history of AMVECAJ, what were the reasons for founding the association?
The start of AMVECAJ is due to the concern of some veterinarians preoccupied that the guild of professionals specialized in swine production would have continuous quality training, and the development of the managerial capacities of the veterinarians in the Altos de Jalisco area, mainly, although any interested party has always been welcomed regardless of their origin.
What have been the main achievements of the entity? What actions do they perform?
The main achievement is the training of veterinarians through different media such as monthly conferences and of course our annual congress.
The AMVECAJ congress is one of the most important at national level due to its quality and convening capacity, both in the country and abroad.
Its success is also due to the importance of the region in pork production, which is extremely attractive for the entire industry, which is the core of all AMVECAJ activities.
It is worth mentioning that, in addition to the aspects related to professional training, we carry out a work of social approach, to call it somehow, through meetings that have the purpose of coexistence between our associates, friends and their families.
Do you maintain relationships with universities and with the Mexican Academy of Veterinary Sciences?
Until now, the approach with the academy and the universities has occurred in an eventual way, it is a point in which we must work in substance and form.
In February you hold the XXVIII cycle of conferences of AMVECAJ, how do you face this event?
With the commitment that has always characterized all those who have collaborated at AMVECAJ at some point: seeking to offer topics that are current and of interest to attendees with both national and international speakers. We hope that whoever joins us will take away something that he can apply and share in his professional life.
What news will be presented at the congress?
More than talking about news, at least in the part of the conference offer, more relevant and current issues will be discussed. It becomes imperative to talk about issues that are not new, but that require special attention, as is the particular case of ASF (African Swine Fever), which has become a closer problem for the entire continent with its appearance in the Caribbean.
On the other hand, issues of animal welfare and professional development will be discussed. What we can mention as a novelty is a series of activities that will take place within the congress itself and some “satellite” activities. In addition, I want to emphasize the active participation and full support of the authorities.
How many attendees are estimated to participate?
Our expectation is to have an attendance of 1500 professionals
The congress has passed in a few years from a regional event to practically an international event and is widely recognized in Latin America. How did you achieve this success?
I don’t know if we can say in a few years. The history of the AMVECAJ congress is about to complete 28 uninterrupted years of facing challenges and growth. From the early years, in the 90’s, when little more than 100 people met, until reaching the most recent years with almost 2,000 attendees.
The basis for this success has been to offer conferences that meet the needs of all members of the pig sector. First at the regional level and, from there, at the national level and, more recently, to be able to reach many other countries through technology. In the 2021 virtual congress we managed to reach 37. Beside reaching all levels, from a farm employee to a large producer.
It is important to emphasize that the result is the effort of all those who have at some point led AMVECAJ.
On the other hand, I must mention and thank the industry related to pig farming that without their contribution the event would not be what it is today.
What is the importance of pig farming in Jalisco and in Mexico in general?
It is of an utmost importance in the state since it contributes greatly to the generation of employment sources and to the production of meat. Jalisco is the main pork producer in Mexico, contributing with around 40% of the national production.
What genetic crosses are bred in Mexico?
In Mexico, at least in industrial pig farming, work is done with genetic lines that are provided by houses specialized in this area. In the terminal part, the use of pure breeds depends on the target market, with Pietrain and Duroc being more common, while white breeds predominate in the maternal line.
What types of wild pigs exist in Mexico? Is any product marketed based on these animals?
The main ones are feral domestic pigs, collared peccaries, but the commercialization of products derived from these is of minimal relevance economically speaking.
What products derived from pork are most consumed in Mexico?
In Mexico practically the entire pig is used from skin, viscera, extremities, meat. There is no part that is not consumed.
Is there a day in Mexico to promote the pork consumption and publicize derived products?
At the national level there is no specific day. In some regions there are fairs that promote consumption, but they are limited events in terms of scope. At AMVECAJ we are working together with the Local Association of Pig Farmers of Tepatitlán, Jalisco and the Municipal Council, to achieve an event that aims to encourage the pork consumption and we try to take advantage of the platforms that AMVECAJ already has.
Likewise, are there specific gastronomy programs on TV in Mexico that promote the pork consumption through culinary recipes?
There are no permanent specific programs for promotion in the media. Pig farmers’ associations are the ones who have made efforts to encourage consumption but intermittently.
What influence does the Free Trade Agreement with the USA currently have on the country’s pork industry?
It is a very big challenge to try to compete with one of the main pork producers in the world and, almost always, at a disadvantage, due to the prices of grains and the conditions imposed by the USA that directly affect the price of pork in Mexico.
Outbreaks of African Swine Fever have recently been detected in nearby countries. What prevention measures are adopted in Mexico?
At the moment, the main strategy of the health authorities is the surveillance of the main entrances to the country. On the other hand, it is being encouraged to notify any suspicious situation in such a way that in case of an event it can be controlled immediately.
Consumers are increasingly tending to select more sustainable and ecological products. What impact does this trend have on the pork industry in Mexico?
The impact it generates at this time is not yet reflected in an important way. However, it is a reality that the producer must be aware of, that the pressure will be greater and that, at some point, he will have to take measures in order to improve the situation of the animals within the production systems.
What measures have recently been implemented in Mexico to create a more sustainable pork industry?
Efforts have been initiated such as:
- The responsible use of water by modifying production systems
- Making the use of antibiotics more efficient
- Use of natural alternatives such as herbal extracts, essential oils, organic acids, etc.
What challenges remain for the Mexican pig industry for the future?
The great challenge for pork production in Mexico is to produce more efficiently with control over health aspects and seek a balance between the demands and trends of consumption such as animal welfare and the business vision of the entrepreneur. That is not only a challenge for Mexico, but also for the world pig industry.