Manitoba pork producers need to look beyond Canada’s southern border for export markets, according to Manitoba Pork Council chairman Karl Kynoch.
Despite stabilization in Canadian exports to the United States, Manitoba’s U.S. pork exports have not returned to levels seen before country-of-origin labelling (COOL) came into effect, Kynoch said during the organization’s recent annual general meeting.
In 2011, Manitoba produced 8.1 million pigs from about 314,000 sows, exporting about 3.1 million live weanlings and roughly 400,000 slaughter hogs to the U.S.
But Kynoch said the number of weanlings exported to the U.S. in 2011 is still 41.8 per cent lower than the peak of 5.5 million seen in 2007.
“This is one area where we have got to continue to work on,” he told producers, noting Manitoba is the largest pork exporter in Canada.
More than 93 per cent of the pork produced in Manitoba leaves the province, destined for other provinces or one of 35 countries.
But despite a positive ruling by the World Trade Organization on COOL, Kynoch said an appeal by the U.S. means it will be more than a year before Canadian producers see any benefit from the ruling.
And because future trade actions are a possibility with any country, the chairman stressed the hog industry should seek to put its eggs in a broad array of baskets.
He cited China, Japan, Mexico and South Korea as areas of growth for hog exports.
But overall Canadian pork exports are strong at $3.2 billion to 140 countries, Kynoch said.
“You know, until a few years ago I didn’t even know that many countries existed,” Kynoch laughed. “That’s huge.”
He added there were also $400 million in global live swine exports in 2011.
But without vigilance Canada could lose its marketing position, particularly as the U.S moves towards a trade deal with the growing South Korean market, he said.
“Our government has been a little behind the eight ball and hasn’t gotten an agreement in place with South Korea,” Kynoch said. “So hopefully they can do something to get an agreement in place, otherwise we are going to be at a 20 per cent disadvantage to our American counterparts going forward.”
The chairman noted demand for pork is growing across the globe, increasing each year by the equivalent of what Canada produces — 12 million hogs.
It’s an opportunity Kynoch would like to see Manitoba producers capitalize on.
“Manitoba has always been one of the best places to grow things, we have lots of open space, lots of open land and we’re one of the lowest-cost production areas,” he said, adding Manitoba pork also needs to be promoted internationally.
“Around the world people have to know that Manitoba is a huge part of exports and the production of pork,” Kynoch said. “We’re there and we’re going to be playing with the big boys.”
But the chairman expressed concern about Manitoba’s ability to meet future demands for hog exports, given the province’s moratorium on new hog barn construction.
The number of hogs produced in Manitoba has declined in recent years. Market hog production peaked in Manitoba in 2005 at 5.35 million and is only estimated at 4.64 million for 2011.
The number of hog farmers has also decreased in Manitoba, although Kynoch said that isn’t surprising.
“It’s a little disappointing to see we don’t have as many farmers on the land, but this is happening right across Canada, and it’s happening in the U.S. as well,” he said. “It’s just part of the changing times.”