“It’s a short period of time (to get organized), but there was a clear message from the summit that we need to follow up on the ideas.”
The Canadian Pork Council will establish a steering group to develop a strategy for acting on all the ideas for bettering the sector that were advanced at the recent pork summit, says Executive Director Martin Rice.
He hopes an action plan will be ready for consideration at next month’s CPC board meeting. “It’s a short period of time (to get organized), but there was a clear message from the summit that we need to follow up on the ideas.”
In a presentation from French economist Christophe Lafougere and in later discussions, a number of steps drew support from the summit participants. Among those Rice envisages for follow up are a campaign, perhaps in cooperation with processors and retailers, to sell consumers on the advantages of Canadian meat. “We want to look as quickly as we can at what the industry should do to create a presence among consumer and gain a more favourable spot in the Canadian market as well as position ourselves for higher valued exports.”
The summit also heard how fragmented Canadian pork producers are. “We don’t know a lot about ourselves and we need to address that issue,” Rice said. Farmers must learn to benchmark their operations so they better understand their financial status. There are also needs to be a dialogue among producers, processors and retailers on what products consumers are most disposed to buying.
Another hot topic is the steady growth in pork imports at a time when the Canadian industry is downsizing to meet lower demand and prices. Lafougere said the industry should contemplate trade
action to protect itself from unfairly priced imports. Rice says the Pork Council wants to work with the Canadian Meat Council on this challenge.
From an extensive study of the Canadian industry, Lafougere also identified packer concentration, increased competition from beef and poultry, the high value of the loonie and inadequate access to foreign markets as issues the Canadian industry must address. Since the summit, the federal government has announced a new support program for pig farmers as well as it would proceed with a WTO challenge against the U. S. COOL law.
He cautioned about an excess of pig herd downsizing in Canada because export markets will return and Canada enjoys a good standing with consumers in other countries. Canadian sales to Japan, Australia and New Zealand are strong and the industry should question why the U. S. outperforms it in China and Mexico.
He noted the Canadian industry has made changes, “Where once 70 per cent of its exports were to the United States, that figure now stands at 30 per cent.” Along with diversification, the Canadian industry has to better understand what foreign consumers are seeking.