The roller coaster ride for the hog industry continues. In late October, while hog markets were higher as market participants consider whether the market is oversold in recent weeks, the December contract stood at $87.95/cwt, compared to around $95 at the beginning of October.
That is quite a drop. Slaughter numbers for that week at 2.193 million head, 3.4 per cent lower than a year ago.
According to Steve Meyer of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange livestock letter, some of the decline in slaughter continues to be offset by heavy carcass weights which shows weights for all hogs at over 215 pounds per carcass, that is 2.5 per cent higher than a year ago.
“I think hams remain important to watch,” says Meyer. “After a sharp decline, they were moving higher in recent days. It remains to be seen if we will see further strength develop ahead of Christmas needs.”
While the hog price roller coaster continues on the price side, people in Manitoba would like to see the production side take a lift meaning a big increase in production, but the current NDP government in Manitoba says no dice, they’re not lifting the current moratorium in place since 2011.
Brandon mayor Shari Decter Hirst, is calling for action that will ensure the future success of the province’s pork processing industry while also addressing environmental concerns related to water quality in Lake Winnipeg.
The current ban leaves the Manitoba processing industry, namely Maple Leaf Foods at Brandon, (2,000 well-paying union jobs) at risk and another 875 employees at HyLife’s Foods plant at Neepawa.
“Maple Leaf is in the food processing business, intensely competitive, a lot of competition coming out of the States where they’ve got less environmental regulatory control,” said Decter Hirst. “So again we have to make sure that our Canadian businesses are as productive and as competitive as the American businesses or frankly we’re going to lose those businesses here in Canada and that would be a real tragedy here in Brandon.”
Manitoba PC Ag critic Blaine Pedersen and MLA for Midland says Manitoba hog processors are short 1.5 million hogs a year and the industry is shrinking.
“Would it not be terrible if Maple Leaf Foods or HyLife Foods would one day say they have to shut down their plant(s). We keep bringing it to the attention of the current government, many many times over,” said Pederson. He says the government doesn’t want to listen, and premier Selinger himself has said, nope they’re not changing the moratorium.
“Our concern is will we have a hog industry in a year and half from now, after the next election,” the PC Ag critic asks. “We can’t seem to get through to government that this is a very real possibility.”
Pederson says Maple Leaf and HyLife, both owners of production pigs are working hard at keeping production from falling too low, picking up all the available barns in Saskatchewan from various companies that shut down in the last five years.
“But they are at the end of what is available,” he said. “Now, if the only way our two processors can continue, is to build barns in Saskatchewan, Manitoba loses again.”
The PC Ag critic says their party’s position is that government needs to work with Manitoba Pork because its doing good work on how Manitoba can rebuild the industry in a sustainable fashion.
“They aren’t even talking expansion, but maintaining the industry at where it is right now,” he adds.  •
— By Harry Siemens