Last week I was a participant at the London, Ontario Swine Conference. This conference is the largest swine conference in Eastern Canada and was well attended. There were over 360 registrants for Wednesday’s general sessions and breakouts. On Thursday the number was over 240.
In the general sessions, there were many outstanding presentations. Of most interest to US producers was a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of the Ontario industry. The analysis was well done with many thought provoking items for producers and allied industry to consider as the Ontario industry goes forward.
Last week the biggest issue on the table (and still an ongoing concern) was slaughter capacity. With the strike at the Olymel plant in Quebec, there were excess market pigs in Ontario that needed an immediate location for sale to slaughter. While the strike was settled last Friday with slaughter expected to resume tomorrow, the impact was severely felt in the Ontario industry.
With the closure of 2 packing plants in the province in recent years, there are excess slaughter pigs produced in the province meaning they must be transported to the Maple Leaf plant at Brandon, MB (a very long transport distance), transported to slaughter in Quebec (a shorter distance but now selling into a provincial market where they are often discounted) or transported to the US (where plant options are limited due to mCOOL).
Unlike the US industry, almost all of the production in Ontario is by family farms who continue to see pork production as a part of their diversified farming success. A 1500 sow breed-wean unit is considered very big and almost all pigs go thru nurseries and fully slatted facilities. There have been few if any new facilities constructed in the past 5-8 years as their industry contracted in response to the impact of US mCOOL legislation on their industry. At the same time, a very strong Canadian dollar reduced their ability to compete with US exports.
With almost 62% of their pork exported, the Canadians are very aware of both local and international market trends. Now that the Canadian dollar is lower in value and the mCOOL case in the WTO is nearing an end, producers in general feel some optimism regarding their long term sustainability. They are watching with interest the expansion in the US since their prices are so closely linked to US prices (and profitability).