Jurgen Preugschas, president of family pig business, Pigs R Us, in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, and a former chair of the Canadian Pork Council, provides an update from the Canadian pork sector, including concerns with the UK’s accession to the CPTPP deal
With the world having been in turmoil with Coronavirus and the wars we are now seeing in different parts of the world, it becomes more and more challenging to predict how businesses will navigate through and, of course, the swine industry is not immune to all of the challenges that this brings.
With the unprecedented increase in production costs, as well as the uncertainty in being able to trade our pork to other parts of the world, the challenges are endless.
Our country, Canada, is especially vulnerable to any events that affect world trade as we export approximately 70% of our production to different countries around the world. We as an industry in Canada have always encouraged free and fair trade around the world and believe that should be, not only for pork coming into our country, but also regarding our ability to send our pork to other countries.
We agreed with the new trade deal with the EU when it was enacted, but, unfortunately, we have been quite disappointed in the ability to actually send pork into the EU due to the tough requirements put on by our pork products on phytosanitary issues.
This brings us to the deal struck recently between our two countries that would grant accession for the UK to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a trading agreement that already covers Canada and 10 other countries (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam).
We were hopeful that the UK, taking into account the strong historical connection between our two countries, would create a more reasonable and fair deal, which would benefit both our countries, but, alas, it was not to be.
The concern is that the UK is unwilling to accept Canada’s meat inspection system and food safety and animal health measures. On top of that, the lack of reciprocal tariff measures will allow UK pork to enter the Canadian market without reciprocation.
The meat industry in Canada is asking our government not to ratify this agreement so our industry is not more disadvantaged than it already is. The volume of UK pork to Canada is continuing to increase every year and yet we cannot access the British market at all, as a result of these barriers.
Our industry in Canada has been through some difficult times over these last two years, with producers’ input costs rising exponentially and, like in other parts of the world, the prices for our pigs not keeping up to that.
Prices have also been affected by a more competitive export market, leading to very low cut-out margins for our packers.
Another issue has been the collapse of the prices of Isowean piglets – piglets weaned away from mothers and other age groups on the farm to keep them free of pathogens – moving into the US, causing massive losses for those producers that sold across the border.
This has caused some major cutbacks in our sow herd, which will likely show up next year in reduced slaughter numbers.
As most of you are probably aware, pig health in Canada is quite high on our farms, although we still deal with some diseases. I’ll talk about a couple of them.
PRRS is still a concern in some farms, but generally under control. A heavier strain has been identified, but it seems to have been contained through rigorous bio security. PED is still showing up from time to time but, again, is under control. Some regions which were hard hit a few years ago have been able to eradicate this devastating disease.