New Opportunities Need to be Explored in Midst of Pork Crisis
By Henry Stevens, Christian Farmers of Ontario
It’s no secret that Ontario’s pork sector is currently in a disastrous position. Unacceptably low live hog prices, coupled with high input costs and diminished export markets, have led to a situation in which producers lose money on every hog that leaves the farm. To top it off, there is considerable uncertainty about the role of the provincial marketing system in the near future. And while this is obviously a terrible situation for farm families, the current pressures on the industry could force creative thinking about future opportunities for producers. Participants in the primary production part of the pork chain have started to have discussions on a wide variety of issues. Those discussions are long overdue and need to take place. There are heated debates about marketing options and support program design. Producers are participating in discussions on whether or not supply management could or should be considered as a viable option for a sector that has long prided itself on the ability to export considerable amounts of product. They are also considering the pros and cons of a ‘Quebec-type model’, with a cost of production stabilization program.
The goals and principles of safety net programs are under scrutiny, and input is being sought on possible improvements as the current set of financial support programs is not providing producers with the stability they need and deserve. The vulnerability of young and beginning farmers stands out clearly in this current situation and deserves special attention. Trade implications, noting that several importing countries are increasingly looking for domestic food security, need to be explored with a healthy dose of realism.
All these discussions and debates are necessary and should go a long way towards making sure the sector comes out of its current crisis with a clearer vision for the future. At some point it’ll be important to have the other pork chain stakeholders involved in these discussions. The processing, further processing and retail food sectors all need to take responsibility for their part in ensuring a strong, profitable future for all the parts of the value chain. Awareness of changing demographics, consumer demands, buying preferences and trade realities will all need to be part of the shaping of a healthy future for Ontario’s entire pork sector. We need to take advantage of the current crisis to equip the entire pork sector to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Henry Stevens is the President of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, Ontario and is archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org/index.html. CFFO is supported by 4,353 family farmers across Ontario.