Producers need a more comprehensive solution, says industry leader
By Jackie Clark
The federal and provincial governments have provided some additional funding for the Canada-Ontario COVID-19 2020 Hog Maintenance Feed Initiative. However, this money is only a drop in the bucket of hurt that hog farmers across the province are continuing to feel as a result of the pandemic.
The additional funds are available for producers who were scheduled for shipping to Olymel or Weston for processing, and were delayed for a minimum of eight days, and shipped to those plants between April 5 and June 13, according to a Nov. 25 release from Agricorp.
In the early months of the pandemic’s first wave of affects on Canada, processing plants had to shut down in the spring due to outbreaks of COVID-19 among their staff.
By the “end of June the backlog was pretty well gone, however (slowdowns) started again around the first of September and we’re back in another backlog situation,” Eric Schwindt, the chair of Ontario Pork, told Farms.com.
“The big issue is in Quebec. Ontario sends about 23,000 to 24,000 pigs per week to Quebec, and they’ve been definitely hit with COVID and a lot of labour issues. They continue to deal with that,” he explained.
The government’s “recovery program dealt with that one isolated issue. It’s by no means a comprehensive solution for hog farmers. Right now, we’re dancing on the edge of another big issue,” he added.
If pork processing is able to “continue with no more hiccups I think we can get through it okay with finding homes for all of our hogs,” Schwindt said. “If we lose any other plants even for a few days we’re going to have a backlog of hogs that we won’t be able to manage effectively.”
Hog farmers across Ontario have been feeling continuous stress over the affect of COVID-19 on their businesses.
“The uncertainty is making it pretty tough right now,” Schwindt explained. Farmers “are managing our pig flows day by day and hoping for improved pig prices in the New Year, but so far all of our predictions are wrong. We never seem to know what’s going to happen next.”
Hog farmers need a more lasting fix to stabilize the industry.
“This recovery program helps a little bit for those producers affected last May, but its not the solution to help the hog industry in general for what’s been a disastrous 2020,” Schwindt said. “Improvements to AgriStability would be the most effective solution for the industry and for government. If we could change the trigger back to 85% that would go a long way … If that’s not attainable, changing the compensation rate to 85% would be a good first step.”
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