Pork producers tackle new challenges, opportunities in 2018

CNS Canada — Pork producers in Western Canada are still grappling with old problems even as new opportunities present themselves in the export market, according to presenters at the Manitoba Pork Council’s annual general meeting Thursday in Winnipeg.

Canadian pork exports in 2017 totaled 1.29 billion tonnes to a tune of $4 billion. On its own, Japan accepted $1.2 billion worth of pork products and is clamouring for more, according to council vice-chairman Rick Bergmann, speaking at the AGM.

“Only Japanese and Canadian fresh chilled pork is sold in (Japanese) Costco,” he said, referring to a trip to the country he took last month. “In Costco Canada, pork loins (generally) come from the U.S.”

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The Canadian pork industry is experimenting with different kinds of chilled pork cuts to send to China, which is itself a $500 million industry, he said.

However, even as the promise of rising exports casts a glow around the industry, challenges, both old and new remain.

Red tape, the threat of a carbon tax, barn heating costs and building code regulations are just a few of the hurdles facing producers.

Farmers in the audience asked various presenters how to steer through the political minefields and public perception challenges facing their industry.

“How can we show the public we’re good at taking care of the animals?” asked one producer in the audience.

Council reps told delegates how they had launched an aggressive public marketing campaign aimed at addressing that very question, with many signs and ads going up in cities such as Winnipeg displaying the industry’s commitment to sustainable development.

As well, the council said it was making strides with improved government relationships.

Meanwhile, the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus continues to be a serious issue affecting producers.

Last year, 80 farms (25 sow, 16 nursery, 39 finishers) in southern Manitoba were impacted by the disease.

As of Thursday there were just four positive cases listed in the province, according to Genelle Hamblin, the pork council’s manager of swine health programs.

Sixty-four other premises had reached a presumptive negative status, which meant they had gone 30 days without having any tests come back positive, she said.

“It came from a huge effort across the sector,” she said.

The council said it hopes to see 200,000 more finishing spaces by 2022 in Manitoba.

— Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Glacier FarmMedia company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow CNS Canada at @CNSCanada on Twitter.