As the U.S. hog market outlook faces a dismal future for the fourth quarter and beyond, Canada is feeling the effects. Weaned pig movement has comed to a halt, especially for those without a previous contract in hand. That likely means that Canada will be slaughtering more of its own market hogs at home in the future.

The National Pork Producers Council has been talking to Canadian government officials, producer groups and packing plant representatives, for several months to address Canada's role in the burdening hog supplies that the United States is facing. NPPC wants Canada to work to assist the United States particularly under periods of
extreme slaughter pressure.

There is plenty of packing capacity to the north. Unlike the United State's scenario, Canadian pork packers can add a second shift to pick up the slack.

Word is that Maple Leaf Foods is considering doing just that at its facility in Brandon, Manitoba. However, the packer will need to secure environmental licensing before moving forward.

That won't help with this fall's scenario, because the licensing process could take several months, so realistically, a second shift isn't likely to occur until fall 2003.

"Maple Leaf has not committed to any specific timing and is continuing to study the project which is in its very early stages," Carolynn Penton, a spokesperson with Fleishman Hillard, an agency hired to speak on behalf of the company.

She also indicated that such a move would require physical modifications to the plant, including waste-water treatment upgrades. That will require a regulatory review and public comment period.

When Maple Leaf built the pork processing plant, it was licensed for two shifts, notes Larry Strachan, Director of the Environmental Approval Branch of the provincial government's, Manitoba Conservation DepartmentStrachan. However, the city of Brandon installed waste-water treatment to accommodate only one shift. That's why Maple Leaf has to submit another waste-water application.

Some opposition to expanding ot a second shift is expected. At issue is public concern about excessive phosphate discharges into the local river system.

Maple Leaf's pork processing facility in Brandon has been open since September 1999, with a capacity of 1,250 hogs per hour.

"The intent of Maple Leaf has always been to increase production at the plant at the appropriate time," Penton adds.

In the past, hog supply has been an concern in terms of adding a second shift, but if more Canadian hogs stay in Canada, that will help. Labor, however, continues to be a concern. Among the problems are poor wages, which has already led Maple Leaf to recruit foreign employees to the company.