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Home Woes Plague Pork Producers

“Exports are critical for our industry,” he noted. “Canada represents about 20 per cent of the international trade in pork.

Competition from cheap foreign meat and lower domestic consumption is hurting sales of Canadian pork at home but exports have held up despite Russian and Chinese efforts to curb imports, the Commons agriculture committee heard Nov. 5.

Jurgen Preugschas, president of the Canadian Pork Council, said exports have remained stable at about one million tonnes despite Russia delisting pork plants and China blocking shipments out of fears of the H1N1 flu. However live hog exports are expected to drop to four million head from 10 million mainly because of the U. S. COOL program.

“Exports are critical for our industry,” he noted. “Canada represents about 20 per cent of the international trade in pork. Our exports have remained level while U. S. shipments have dropped 30 per cent.”

The situation on the home front is the main reason “we’re experiencing the worst economic returns in the hog industry,“ he said. Cheap foreign pork, mostly from the U. S., accounts for about 25 per cent

of the sales in Canadian grocery stores. “We would like to get the domestic consumption of our meat back up to the 85 per cent to 90 per cent range.”

The industry produces 25 million hogs annually and has slaughter capacity for about 21 million.

As the likelihood of a new trade deal emerging out of the WTO negotiations appears low, Canada should press ahead with more bilateral free trade agreements. He noted that Chile has struck deals with many countries and Canada should follow its example.

Preugschas picked his words carefully when answering questions about the federal assistance

program for pork producers. There’s not enough money in it to help all producers, in part because of the actions of the major banks to extract higher interest rates, and farmers across the country are receiving different information about the program. The group will hold Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz to his promise that farmers wouldn’t be penalized by high interest rates on loans under the program, he said. He said the pork industry supports legislation to establish a free trade deal with Columbia that the NDP and Bloc Quebecois are trying to stall because the Latin American country offers plenty of potential for Canadian exporters.

He also said Canada should require meat imported from the United States to meet the same labelling and inspection standards as Canadian meat. It should also have to pay a promotional and research levy just as Canadian pork going into the United States does. “Canada has such a boy scout attitude when we should treat the Americans the same way as they treat us.”

Edouard Asnong, presi -dent of the Canadian Pork International, said India could be a big market for Canadian pork but first Canada has to reach a veterinary agreement so that trade in animals and meat could take place. “We also have to engage countries like Russia and China to end their barriers against us,” he said.

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