Friday, 14 September 2012

Pork Council Must Focus More on Farmers' Needs

14/04/2012 1:00 AM |     Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Maple Leaf and government policy is to blame for the continued loss of hog producers and a risk to “thousands of jobs” at the Brandon slaughter plant.

Manitoba Pork Council general manager Andrew Dickson would have us believe that the province-wide hog production ban and new manure treatment regulations are the culprits.
Does Dickson forget that the loss of most independent hog farmers started when the Maple Leaf, Hy-Tek and Puratone corporations set up their pyramid scheme-like operations and the conservative Filmon government removed single-desk marketing protection in the late 1990s? Well before a moratorium and phosphorus regulation was put in place.
Further details here.

The Clean Environment Commission reports that, in the 1960s, government put the single-desk system in place “in response to producer complaints that the packing companies were combining to keep prices down.”
The Canadian Pork Council acknowledges in its 2011 report “Building a Durable Future in the Canadian Hog Industry,” that “When consolidated buyers are purchasing from fragmented sellers, prices will generally favour the buyers,” and, “The lack of ability to negotiate higher pricing formulae makes it relatively difficult to do business.”
Farmers who raise few hogs, without the single-desk, are forced to accept the prices set by these companies with their contract producers for a “$1 to $2 per hog” profit. Or they can stop. This company set margin hasn’t changed much since 2004. Overall economic viability is dependent on volume of production and sales. By 2006, 78 per cent of hogs were raised by only 21 per cent of hog producers with 90 per cent of all producers under contract production. The consolidation and loss of producers continues.
Further, a decrease in domestic pork consumption due to consumer distaste for pollution, health, social, food safety and animal welfare problems (especially sows kept in crates all their lives) which are endemic to the industrial system, resulted in more people directly sourcing pork from the few remaining independent small farmers or not eating it at all.
If Maple Leaf is so desperate for hogs to keep its plant running at full capacity, why did the corporation downsize its sow herd from 109,000 to 40,000 sows in 2008? To transfer more risk to producers?
MPC members’ interests would be better served if Dickson focused on the needs of real farmers, the environment and true humane pig raising, rather than on what its corporate members Maple Leaf, HyLife and Puratone want.
The current problem is one of its own making, supported by government.
Manitoba taxpayers should not be expected to, once again, subsidize the industry with environmental, health and animal welfare concessions as Dickson is again calling on government to do on behalf of these MPC corporate members’ interests.
Alexander, MB
(Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 14, 2012)

Please also read: Pork Industry's Muddy Image

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