1-01-21-15-bps-rick Bergmann Jan 21, 2015, 12-19 PM 4608x3072Rick Bergmann of Steinbach, MB who is the new chair for the Canadian Pork Council says key highlights of 2014 are substantial improvements in profitability, significant developments on the trade front, major advances in biosecurity and animal health.
Some coin 2014 as maybe the best year Manitoba hog producers have ever had, but that is saying lots.
Bergmann says producers will remember 2014 as a very good year for the Canadian pork industry.
“Our producers had a very solid year of good economics and when this happens, it benefits not only grassroots producers but all the many businesses that depend on pork production here in Canada,” he said. “Looking back as well, the trade agreements with Europe and South Korea and so on, stand out as a definite highlight.”
Bergmann says watching how hog producers took on the critical importance of health and biosecurity on their farms is a key factor that is helping keep the industry’s pigs safe. The industry put forth such a huge effort and certainly would be a highlight for 2014 on the successes of their efforts in the biosecurity.
“To build on the biosecurity and all the work that has been done to date, all provincial boards have agreed to fund the national animal health initiative and that’s such a key success in 2014,” he said. “Another key success, the Canadian Pork Council now has a veterinarian on staff so it’s very clear that the health file and the health focus has and will continue to get major attention for our producers here in Canada.”
Bergmann says major challenges for 2015 will include resolving the issue of Mandatory U.S. Country of Origin Labelling, continuing the focus on animal health and addressing concerns over the lack of access to workers.
He warns failure to address the chronic shortage of workers within the Canadian pork industry will result in lost opportunities throughout the pork value chain.
Changes the federal government made last June to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program have dramatically reduced the ability of Canadian pork producers and processors to fill vacant positions.
Bergmann says Canada exports a high quality product to over 100 countries but to fully capitalize on those opportunities the government has to help rectify the shortage of labor needs.
“We depend very much on the domestic and a foreign work force so we need access to a great employee base, both domestic and foreign,” he said. “There is an inability to pursue foreign workers and that puts a whole lot of challenge to us in our industry here in different levels on different facets of our industry.”
Bergmann has producer friends looking to expand the workforce on their farms and it is very difficult for them to do so. If it doesn’t happen, if things don’t get resolved then there’s nobody there to do the work.
“If there’s nobody there to do the work that means the work goes away and that means there’s less opportunity for the producer as well as many others in the chain of different aspects of pork production where it will take away opportunity and jobs,” he says.
Bergmann says the pork industry requires a strong labor force to carry on and, without this workforce, it will continue to pressure producers, processors and packers.
The outgoing chair of Manitoba Pork Karl Kynoch who is stepping down in April, agrees with Bergmann on some of the key issues in 2014 and in 2015 going forward. Addressing swine health issues and rebuilding Manitoba’s swine production infrastructure will be among the provincial pork industry’s main focuses is 2015.
Kynoch says, while 2014 started out with the challenge of PED, Manitoba’s pork producers did an excellent job containing the virus. For those producers’ whose pigs did contract the virus, 2014 was extremely profitable which went a long way toward recovering some of equity lost over the past few years.
“Going forward swine health is probably going to be number one,” he said. “Right now we’re in the process of putting together a Western Swine Health Initiative which is going to take on a lot of roles.”  •
— By Harry Siemens