Clare Schlegel, first vice-president of the Canadian Pork Council, spoke to attendees of the Midwest Pork Conference last week to give some perspective on the state of the Canadian pork industry.

Schlegel says the Canadian hog sector includes about 14.6 million pigs on farms, which is a 23 percent increase from 1997. There are 1.5 million sows and bred gilts in the Canadian breeding herd, up 28 percent from 1997.

The following table shows recent growth in the Canadian pork industry:

1995 1998 2001
(thousand hogs)
Domestic slaughter 15,771 16,923 20,699
Slaughter hog exports 1,096 2,656 2,152
Feeder pig exports 651 1,466 3,169
Total marketings 17,519 21,227 26,220
Source: Statistics Canada

The majority of growth in the last decade has come from the Prairie provinces, which have increased marketings 96.5 percent from 1991 to 2001. Ontario increased marketings 56.9 percent and Quebec increased marketings 53.5 percent.

Schlegel also says that Canada has a competitive advantage over the United States in farrowing, because they aren’t subject to the same regulations when building sow units as U.S. producers. He also says U.S. producers have a competitive advantage for finishing hogs due to cheaper feedgrains and the currency conversions.

Canadian producers are introducing the Canadian Quality Assurance Program, similar to the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance Program.

Canadian pork officials have worked with U.S. officials to reduce pork tariffs around the world. Schlegel says Canada’s goals from World Trade Organization negotiations is to work toward elimination of all pork subsidies, as well as expansion of the WTO.

Shlegel says environmental concerns will be a bigger challenge to Canadian pork production in the future. In addition, improving export access, maintaining consumer confidence in food safety and maintaining a quality feed supply will be additional challenges. The U.S. Farm Bill, particularly the country-of-origin labeling, was mentioned as being a significant challenge to the Canadian pork industry.