THE target date for WA pig producers to reach Australian Pork Industry Quality (APIQ) Level 2 quality assurance standards is likely be put back a few months due to the high number of accredited auditors needed. Pork Producers and Processors of WA (PPPOWA) chairman and Dorsogna general manager Derek Smith said one of the stumbling blocks in meeting the December 31 target date was the increasing number of producers getting to the audit stage as the deadline approached. "If you do not have a ready number of auditors on the ground then it is hard to turn that around," he said. WA's main pig processors have indicated they would only buy or contract pigs from producers committed to reaching Level 2 through the APIQ Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) accreditation system. Swine Pro Associates consultant Jeremy Skuse was involved in getting Watsonia's 38 contract bacon growers to the Level two stage, with about half already audited. Mr Skuse, who had notched up 40,000 kilometres visiting contract grower farms twice, as well as meetings at Narrogin, Moora, Spearwood and Boyup Brook, said about only four producers had dropped out of the program. However, he said five or six growers were looking to go on to Level 3, the Safe Quality of Food (SQF 2000), and top level of APIQ standards. Mr Skuse said farmers were generally happy about the QA system, with larger piggeries also seeing the benefits of having standardised procedures in place for their employees. PPC Livestock co-ordinator John Bell said his group's 60 or so growers, in three groups at Kojonup, Wongan Hills and Ballidu-Koorda, were signed up for Level 1 and were committed to reaching Level 2. Woolworths has recently confirmed with PPPOWA that its contract pork producers would be APIQ quality assured by the target date. WA Pig Producers Association (WAPPA) president Chris Keene said a likely scenario in the future was that auditing, which would need to be done each year, would be staggered so as not to pose such an auditing load at one time. He estimated it cost farmers about $500 to go through the process. Mr Keene said such a co-operative approach to quality assurance between processors and producers was an Australian first, sending a clear signal to retailers and consumers that WA's pork industry was seriously committed to producing only a quality assured product. PPPOWA was formed last year as an initiative of WAPPA council and involves four producer and four processor members working together for the mutual benefit of the pork industry. Mr Smith had replaced Serpentine pig producer David Chown as PPOWA chairman in August.