High on the hog

“Festive” may be too strong a word to describe the mood at the 2012 Alberta Pork Congress.

Attendees of the Alberta Pork Congress at the Westerner Park in Red Deer on Wednesday. Now in its 38th year

“Festive” may be too strong a word to describe the mood at the 2012 Alberta Pork Congress. But the atmosphere at this year’s industry trade show in Red Deer is certainly more upbeat than it was in 2011.

“For sure it’s better,” said Alberta Pork chairman Jim Haggins. “We’ve had a better fall and winter pricing-wise than we’ve seen in quite some time.

“There’s some cautious optimism right now.”

The Canadian pork industry was hurt by an extended period of low prices that forced many producers out of business. Last May, Alberta Pork even refunded 85 per cent of its 2010-11 producer levies — $2.1 million — to help members get over the financial hump.

Since then, prices have improved to the point that most operations are no longer bleeding red ink. And there are new risk management tools — most notably the hog price insurance program and forward pricing program — that are now available to producers.

“That’s a real positive thing that’s new this year compared to last,” said Haggins.

However, the industry remains fragile.

“It’s going to take quite some time to pay off the debt that’s been accumulated the last 3 1/2 years or so,” he said.

Before Alberta’s depleted supply of hogs can be replenished, producers will have to commit to the industry and lenders will need to overcome their nervousness about the sector.

“If we can rebuild the confidence of people and get some better access to capital for those who want it, I think we could turn the corner here given another year or so,” said Haggins.

Challenges remain, he acknowledged.

The cost of inputs like feed and even electricity are rising, and labour remains a concern — both in terms of the availability of workers and the high wages that must be paid, especially in Alberta.

Meanwhile, the decline in hog numbers makes it difficult for processing plants like Olymel in Red Deer to operate efficiently.

“We don’t have enough pigs for packers in Western Canada,” said Haggins, noting that this scarcity has allowed producers to negotiate a premium for their animals.

“But long term it’s not good. We need to have our processors operating efficiently so they can pass on some of that money to our producers and have them expand.”

The key to the long-term viability of the Canadian pork industry is exports, especially to Asian countries, said Haggins. Not only is pork a preferred source of protein for people there, they consume parts of the carcass that North Americans don’t.

“Those markets are a real bonus to our exporters,” he said, stressing the importance of the federal government continuing to pursue trade agreements with those countries.

The 2012 Alberta Pork Congress started Wednesday and continues today at Westerner Park.

Yesterday evening, the 2012 Quality Awards were presented, with Britestone Colony named Grand Champion, Blue Sky Colony claiming the High Health Award, Pine Hill Colony receiving the Food Safety Award, Holt Colony winning the Core Lean Award and Athabasca Colony taking home the Core Weight Award.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Lee seeks UCP nomination in Red Deer

Eyes Red Deer-North constituency

Updated Red Deer smoke free bylaw to ban smoking cannabis in public

Smoke Free Bylaw returns to Red Deer city council Sept. 4

Red Deer city council considers new business licence bylaw

All businesses operating in the City of Red Deer will require a… Continue reading

Saskatchewan farmer’s death triggers emotional harvest of love and respect

MILESTONE, Sask. — Volunteers have rallied to harvest the large wheat crop… Continue reading

Councillors want to represent Red Deer at AUMA

City council approves endorsement

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Animal crackers break out of their cages

After more than a century behind bars, the beasts on boxes of… Continue reading

Alligator kills woman trying to protect her dog at resort

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — A woman who often walked her dog… Continue reading

Patients redirected as water leak shuts down Edmonton hospital’s emergency room

EDMONTON — Ambulances are being redirected to other hospitals after a water… Continue reading

Parks Canada moves second bison bull that wandered out of Banff National Park

BANFF — Parks Canada says a second bison bull that wandered out… Continue reading

Lottery for parent sponsorship to be replaced, more applications to be accepted

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is scrapping an unpopular lottery system for… Continue reading

Air Canada-led consortium signs deal to buy Aeroplan program from Aimia

TORONTO — A consortium led by Air Canada has reached a deal… Continue reading

Scheer going to India to ‘repair’ relationship after ‘disastrous’ Trudeau trip

OTTAWA — Six months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s foreign policy prowess… Continue reading

Police chiefs want new data-sharing treaty with U.S. as privacy questions linger

OTTAWA — Canada’s police chiefs are pressing the Trudeau government to sign… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month