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Processing Slowdown Raises Hog Numbers

With a slowdown in domestic processing, Canadian hog numbers have crept higher.

Canadian producers reported 14.1 million hogs on their farms as of Jan. 1, up 0.6% from the same date in 2021, according to a Statistics Canada livestock inventory report Monday. That was the highest since 14.17 million in 2018.

Labour issues, along with lower export demand for pork, were the primary drivers behind the year-over-year decline in processing, StatsCan said, with the total national hog slaughter from July to December 2021 down 5.4% to 10.9 million head. The decrease was particularly steep in Ontario, where slaughter fell 10.1% to 2.7 million head.

“Throughout the country, ongoing labour issues, as well as enhanced public health measures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, slowed supply chains and the processing sector,” StatsCan said.

On the other hand, international exports were strong. Canada exported 3.4 million live hogs in the second half of 2021, up 23.2% from the same period in 2020, as the processing disruptions in Eastern Canada encouraged shipments of live hogs to the US, StatsCan said. Ontario posted the most significant year-over-year increase in exports (+75.9% to 987,600 head), as producers sought to offset decreases in domestic slaughter.

The pig crop, which represents the number of live piglets after weaning, reached 14.9 million (-0.1%) from July to December 2021, a slight decrease from the same period a year earlier.

Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba continued to hold the largest hog inventories among the provinces. The three provinces are home to over 80% of Canada's hogs, with Quebec accounting for nearly one-third of the national herd, at 4.4 million head. In contrast, British Columbia, hog inventories fell to 72,000 head, a 16.3% year-over-year decrease, as several thousand hogs died during the major flooding events of late 2021.

As of Jan. 1, 2022, hog inventories were reported by 7,575 farms, down 0.3% from the same date a year earlier. These farms reported 1.2 million sows and gilts (+0.3%), while the number of boars increased by 1.2% year over year to 17,100 head.

While producer prices trended lower towards the end of 2021, as export demand for live hogs from the US began to weaken, average Canadian producer prices generally remained well above those received in the latter half of 2020.

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