Pork prices have remained low in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic
By Jackie Clark
Hog farmers across Canada are going to continue to struggle as a result of the COVID-19 crisis for months to come, Gary Stordy told Farms.com. He’s the director of government and corporate affairs at the Canadian Pork Council.
Although the provincial and federal governments announced $5 million in funding for Ontario’s pork industry in June, no other provincial programs or additional support has been leveraged, Stordy said.
“That particular $5 million was to deal with the backlog of animals from the processing plants shutting down,” he explained. “That is a serious issue … certainly not one to be marginalized because it can happen anytime.”
However, “there is a larger shadow” hovering over Canadian hog producers, he added.
That shadow consists of pork prices that have failed to fully recover since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic shocked the markets.
“Frankly, it’s devastating,” Stordy said. “Prices are much below seasonably where they should be and are projected to be low moving forward. … That’s concerning overall for the financial health but also the mental stress that producers are under.”
Hog prices took a deep dive in prices during the initial days of the pandemic, which put producers into a cash crunch. Initially it seemed like prices would recover, however, since then they’ve gone down again, said Stordy.
“The significance of this is the time when prices should be high,” he explained. In the summer “raising the animals is a little more difficult because of the weather conditions, but there’s also demand, so prices are generally much higher. And that helps (producers get) through the year.”
Higher prices in the summer often help pork producers get through winter months with lower prices. This year, farmers will require additional support from the government to keep their farms operational.
“In the short term, the existing business risk management (BRM) programs, whether it’s the AgriInvest program or AgriStability, are going to be the tools that are available in the short term,” Stordy said. “We’re more concerned that that’s not sufficient over the next eight to 10 months.”
AgriStability in particular “helps producers when help is needed,” he added. Pork industry officials are calling for BRM programs to be improved and expanded to ensure they can address the needs of hog farmers in the coming months.
“Unlike other sectors where you can store product or decide not to grow or raise something, hog production is not like that. 365 days a year, day in, day out, animals are moving back and forth,” Stordy said. “Producers just do not have the choice to turn production on or off.”
National Pork Board, Des Moines, Iowa, photo