After years of dealing with new diseases, hog barn restrictions and country-of-origin labelling, pork producers at the annual Manitoba Swine Seminar were told things are looking up for the industry.
“There is a lot of good news,” said Andrew Dickson, general manager of the Manitoba Pork Council, during his state-of-the-industry address. He cited the U.S. repeal of country-of-origin labelling as a big win for Canadian producers, one that would help both sales and profitability. New trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, where also positives, he said.
Signs also point to new hog barns being built in 2016, the general manager noted.
“2015 was a big breakthrough; we finally got the provincial government to back off on this anaerobic digester issue,” he said. “So in a sense, the moratorium is basically off, we can move forward building barns using the two-cell separation system.”
Technically the province is allowing new barns to be built under what it calls a pilot program, one that is restricted by location and requires producers meet 11 additional requirements.
But Dickson said those requirements are simpler to navigate than might first be expected.
“Producers are already doing many of these requirements,” he said.
There is also positive news on the financial side. Securing financing for replacement barns has been extremely difficult due to issues of evaluations, Dickson said. But now Farm Credit Corporation has indicated a willingness to base evaluations on the cost of construction and not market value, which should allow producers to secure the cash they need to renew infrastructure.
But there is still much work to do, and many barns to build if the province’s pork producers hope to bring production capacity in line with processing capacity.
“We know we need to have more finisher barns in the province, we need to bring more balance between our production capacity, and our processing capacity,” said Dickson. “We are short about one million to 1.5 million finisher pigs in this province in terms of our total processing capacity.”
That translates into building 80 new barns, each able to house 4,000 finisher pigs at a time.
“At the same time our barns are aging and we need to start replacing our capacity to produce,” he said, adding that the three or four new barns that will be built in 2016 are only a drop in the bucket.
In 2015, the province produced about 7.9 million pigs, still far less than in previous years. In 2007, Manitoba produced roughly 9.5 million pigs, from about 370,000 sows. The number of hog operations has also shrunk in recent years, said Dickson.
But Manitoba remains Canada’s largest pork exporter and things are heading in the right direction, even as uncertainties about porcine epidemic diarrhea and the U.S. swine sector remain, he said.
The council will continue to push for a Hog Stabilization Program as well, said Dickson.
“There is always more to be done,” he said.