TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
A visitor to Hog Days Brandon at the Keystone Centre walks past a display in the trade show area on Thursday afternoon.
A weaker Canadian dollar, a deadly disease in the United States and a bumper crop across North America has Manitoba hog producers in an optimistic mood, according to Andy Cardy with H@ms Marketing.
Ben Hernandez with Remingtons Seafood and Steakhouse and Derrick Turner of Assiniboine Community College dig into a cake as Jeff Fidyk with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives looks on during judging of the Best Make and Bake Competition at Hog Days Brandon on Thursday. The three judges and fellow judge Bill Turner from CKLQ tasted and rated approximately 80 different desserts in a handful of categories. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
"We estimate that every penny the Canadian dollar loses is worth about $2 a hog," said Cardy, who is co-chair of Hog Days Brandon, which took place at the Keystone Centre yesterday.
Typically, prices for hogs soften in the fall and winter months, but this year hasn’t seen the dramatic downturn that producers have experienced in years previous.
Part of the reason is there are less hogs available — both in Canada and the U.S.
Here at home, many producers chose to get out of the industry when the government offered a buyout program a number of years back.
Cardy doesn’t expect many of those smaller operations will every get back into the swine business.
"The number of pigs being produced in Manitoba isn’t that much less, but it is by fewer people and bigger companies," he said.
In the U.S., a deadly swine flu called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus is having devastating results for young piglets.
Losses have been estimated at close to four million hogs over the last seven months.
The virus has yet to be found in Canada.
"It’s affected marketable hogs in the U.S. and elsewhere and it’s helping hold the prices up," Cardy said. "As long as we can keep that disease out of Canada, it’s good for us. Someone else’s misfortune is our fortune."
One producer, who wished to remain anonymous, said Manitoba producers could be treading on thin ice if production doesn’t increase to keep large plants like Maple Leaf Foods running at capacity.
"Right now, some of the big plants are short killing capacity and that’s good for producers because it means our hogs are needed," he said.
"If it ever got to the point where some of those companies cut their killing shifts, well then, the roles would be reversed and we would have a surplus of hogs in relation to kill capacity."
In 2012, approximately 5.78 million hogs were slaughtered in Canadian packing plants that originated from Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
According to Statistics Canada, there were 2.96 million head of hogs in Manitoba on July 1, 2013, compared to 2.89 million the same time last year.
"I know people will not want to hear it, but the best thing to happen to the industry would be for the dollar to fail," he said. "When all of the plants moved or were built in the area, the dollar was closer to 70 cents."
Close to 600 people were expected to pass through the one-day Hog Days event, which tries to marry producer and industry, according to Rhonda Coupland, who is helping run Hog Days Brandon.
"Many of the people in the industry are travelling to the producer and the colonies all year and it’s a chance to get them all in one room at the same time," she said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 13, 2013