Hog shortage forces ‘non-production days’ at Maple Leaf

Jun 10, 2014

A shortage of hogs has forced Maple Leaf Foods to implement one “non-production” day a week at its Brandon processing plant. While the reasons for the shortage are complex, some in the industry say the solution is simple‚ more pigs.

The Manitoba Pork Council says that means building more finisher barns, which hasn’t happened since 2006 when the province imposed a moratorium on building new hog barns. Today, new barns can be built in many areas of Manitoba, but only if they include an anaerobic digester to handle manure.

Pork Council’s general manager Andrew Dickson says that isn’t realistic.

“You’re not going to spend $1 million on a manure-handling system, it just doesn’t make any sense, it’s uneconomical and you’re not going to be competitive, so it’s a non-starter, no one is going to build a barn until that is resolved.”

Finding enough cash to renew on-farm infrastructure has also presented problems for producers, leading to a reduction in hog production.

“The number of market hogs could be increased… but we need some help to lever more private capital investment on-farm, and for government to stop forcing regulations, which discourage investment,” said Pork Council president Karl Kynoch.

Talks between pork producers and the federal and provincial governments have been ongoing, with the most recent round in Ottawa last week. The council wants a government-backed assistance program for producers struggling to secure capital following nearly four years of dismal returns. But so far, nothing concrete has come out of those discussions.

“At least we’re still talking about it,” said Dickson, while Kynoch described the process as, “very frustrating.”

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