Manitoba hog producers are still in limbo
Manitoba pork producers are still waiting to hear whether a proposed hog stabilization program will move ahead.
The loan program, proposed by the Manitoba Pork Council, needs the backing of the provincial government to go forward.
“I think we’re getting close to a point where they have to make a decision as to whether they’re on board, or say they’re not going to do it,” said Andrew Dickson, the pork council’s general manager.
The proposed stabilization program would see cash loans provided by financial institutions and administered by Manitoba Pork Council Corporation, but the province would need to guarantee the loans.
A mandatory $5 levy would then apply to all hogs sold in the province. But farmers who opt out of the program will have funds returned to them. For those who choose to participate in the program, the levy will go directly to repaying loans provided.
“The plan is meant to be a long-term plan,” said Dickson. “We want something in place that provides some sort of trampoline effect to the industry, so we don’t go through these huge cash crunches.”
Continuing high feed costs, following on the heels of H1N1 and country-of-origin labelling, have left many hog producers without a financial cushion. Meanwhile, ongoing negative returns have made getting capital difficult for farmers. Dickson said a top hog will only fetch about $155 these days, while feed costs range from $120 to $130 per animal. Add in another $50 or $60 per pig for staff, electricity and other bills, and most producers are still losing money.
Historically, hog prices are lower in late winter, but the general manager said even with a good corn harvest this year, prices aren’t expected to return to normal until next February.
“The feedback I’m getting right now is that unless they hear something in the next couple of months, decisions are going to be made in the long term about closing operations down permanently,” Dickson said.
Ron Kostyshyn, minister for Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, said he has been in close contact with the Manitoba Pork Council about the situation.
“It is a concern,” he said. “We’re well aware of the circumstances and I know that we’ve put forward some questions and some information with the pork council.”
He said once those questions are answered, he hopes a decision can be made.