By Bruce Cochrane
The general manager of Manitoba Pork says it's critical to rebuild hog numbers within Manitoba to ensure the viability of the province's pork processing sector.
The reduced availability of hogs for processing in Manitoba was discussed last week during Keystone Agricultural Producers General Council Meeting in Brandon.
Manitoba Pork general manager Andrew Dickson says, although we've seen recent dramatic improvements in profitability, losses over the past five years have forced the closure of many hog production facilities, financing the replacement of that capacity has been difficult and producers have been unwilling to invest due to provincial government requirements for anaerobic digesters to obtain a construction permit.
Andrew Dickson-Manitoba Pork:
We know producers are interested in expanding their facilities.
There's a financial issue that needs to be addressed but we're down to just over 300 thousand sows in the province.
We were up at 370 thousand to 380 thousand sows at one time so we have done this before.
It's just a matter of rebalancing the production between the farms and our processing capacity.
We can't have processing capacity running at about 70 to 75 percent when our American counterparts, our competition, is running at 90 to 95 percent capacity.
The business is not sustainable in the long run so we need to turn this around.
We need to bring more balance between production on the farm and our processing capacity and we're not talking about a sudden massive increase in production.
It's actually a relatively small increase in production but it would stabilize the processing side.
That'll have a huge impact in terms of cities like Brandon in terms of employment and so on, it'll have an impact on Winnipeg in terms of employment because there's a lot of further processing on pork in Winnipeg.
People forget that Maple for example has a plant in Winnipeg with over 12 hundred employees and they've got 200 in their office, so that's 14 hundred employees in one plant in Winnipeg.
Dickson says, if we could rebuild our finishing capacity to bring it back into balance with our processing capacity the economic impact on the province would be phenomenal.