Tuesday, March 21, 2023

TruHarvest has folded

TruHarvest, the venture that took over Toronto beef-packing plant Ryding-Regency, is out of business.

Vice-president Chuck Oulton said in a recent interview with Farms.com that it ran ouf of money to achieve its goal of slaughtering 1,500 head a week.

When it closed it was doing about 700 a week with 140 employees working three days a week.

The plant was put back into business by the Burgin family of Forest, a revival that was much needed in a province short of beef-slaughter capacity.

Oulton said TruHarvest was a supplier to niche markets, such as halal and kosher, and those buyers are left with little or no Canadian supply.

“With a new business, there’s only so much chance you have with the banks to get financing for expansions,” Oulton said. “The Burgin family put a lot out there to try and make this a success. I really do think they gave it their all.”

India and Viet Nam are pork markets

India and Viet Nam are bright prospects for increased Canadian pork exports, economist John Cranfield of the University of Guelph told the annual meeting of the Ontario Pork marketing board in Guelph recently.

Viet Nam, for example, has little land or ability to produce feed grains, yet is a major consumer of pork and that’s likely to increase as incomes continue to rise, he said.

India is also experiencing improved incomes and with that comes demand for meat protein, he said.

Nigeria, with 240 million people and a rapidly-increasing population, is another market prospect to which Canada should pay attention, he said.

Canada has the land, water and expertise to continue increasing pork exports, he said.

He praised the pork board for taking the initiative to address consumer concerns about animal welfare, the environment and sustainability and urged them to make sure Canadian consumers get the message.

He said competition is coming from plant-based proteins where the technology and costs are likely to keep improving, led by technology-savvy startups that later will be bought by large-scale producers such as Maple Leaf Foods which has built a large plant in Indiana.

That plant is not going to go away, he said, despite a slump in sales.

He also predicted competition will be coming from “cellular” meats produced in fermentation tanks from stem cells harvested from pigs.

He said much will depend on hog these competitors and pork producers position their products.

He urged the pork industry to join with governments and companies to strategize how to open markets in countries such as Viet Nam, India and Nigeria. Africa is the only continent that will continue to experience population growth, he said.

The rest of the world is in a decline in the population of people younger than 15 years, he said.

Axel Ndayisaba
of Agriculture and AgriFood Canada briefed the meeting on trade negotiations, including current talks with the United Kingdom, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and countries applying to gain entry into that deal, and with India and the ASEAN association (10 countries) for Asia.

He said Canada’s strategy with the United Kingdom is to wait to see what happens to its application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership and then to seek increased access for Canada to the U.K.’s agriculture and food markets.

When Stewart Cressman challenged him over the European Union’s ongoing demands that have stifled Canadian pork exports, he said Canada presented a report on carcass disinfection procedures and safety and the E.U. has said it will take it five years to evaluate that information.

He said the difficulty is the strong farmer lobby in member countries in the European Union. Stewart countered that the free trade deal that was signed in 2016 seems to be a “worthless piece of paper.”

He said Canadian imports of beef from Ireland surged as soon as the deal was signed.

He said Canada is maintaining a close watch on U.S. proposals to allow country of origin labeling of meat, eggs and poultry products, but so far it is for voluntary labeling which may not impact Canadian exports or prices.

Ottawa is also keeping a close watch on Proposition 12 in California that could force hog producers all across North America to transition out of confinement housing for sows.

Quebec pork producers and Olymel still talking

Quebec’s powerful hog marketing board continues intense negotiations with Olymel and other smaller pork packers over a deal that would end up reducing hog production rates by 1.2 million hogs per year.

Rene Roy, a director of the Quebec board and president of the Canadian Pork Council, said they have been talking eight hours per day for the last week and said he thinks they are close to a deal.

He said production cuts will be mandated across the board.

He said Olymel will be closing one of its hog-slaughtering plants and it will have to reduce production from its farms the same as all other Quebec hog producers.

Olymel owns some of the largest and most modern hog farms in the province.

Roy said it’s hard to predict the full extent of the fallout from the crisis, but he does expect a large percentage of older farmers with smaller operations to retire from pork production.

The need to convert housing from sow gestation crates to mingling in pens will prompt some to quit rather than invest in renovations, he said.

There are others producing under contract and they may also quit, he said.

He expects there will be a significant increase in the export of weaner pigs to the United States and some movement of market hogs to the U.S.

Economist Steve Meyer of Kerns Associates in Iowa said any surge of Canadian exports from Quebec might prompt producers there to call for countervailing duties to offset any help Canadian governments provide to Quebec producers.

Roy said the federal and Quebec governments are involved in discussions to provide help to the industry.

Meyer also said he has heard no producer concerns about competition from Canadians in meetings he has attended in the U.S.


Steve Meyer
Both Meyer and Roy were at the annual meeting of the Ontario Pork marketing board at Guelph.

African swine fever surges in China

There has been a surge is positive tests for African Swine Fever in China’s main hog-producing provinces in the north.

There were as many positives in January as for the entire previous year, reports Reuters news agency.

Jim Long of Genesus Pork, which sells breeding stock to China, said African Swine Fever is the reason marketings of pigs of all sizes and ages have recently increased.

An initial wave during 2018 and 2019 killed millions of pigs and led to a global increase in in meat prices.

Chinese farms have significantly improved hygiene and procedures since then to reduce the impact of the virus, but it still circulates constantly, often spiking in winter, said Reuters,


"We guess that the current swine fever infection area in northern production areas may be reaching 50 per cent,” said analysts at Huachuang Securities in a report on Monday.

Reuters quoted an anonymous farm manager saying the outbreak has not yet subsided.

"We continue to believe the low China hog price is due to many pigs going to slaughter at any weight due to ASF [out]breaks,”Long wrote in a report this week.

Ontario clamping down on abuse of farm workers

Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton is increasing fines for employers who abuse migrant workers.

He said the “scumbags” abusing migrant workers will be found, fined and put behind bars.

Farms, businesses and people who are convicted of withholding a foreign national’s passport or work permit could face fines of $100,000 to $200,000 for every worker whose rights are abused.

“While most employers care about their workers, some continue to take advantage of them, including illegally holding their passports and work permits. This obviously leaves workers vulnerable,” said McNaughton. 

“Migrant workers are afraid. That’s why every possible chance I get, I tell migrant workers that they’re protected under the labour laws here in Ontario,” he said.

“Please, come forward if there’s injustices out there.”

Under the Working for Workers Act, 2023, individuals convicted of withholding passports would be liable to either a fine of up to $500,000, up to 12 months imprisonment, or both. 

Corporations convicted would be liable to a fine of up to $1 million.

Food inflation remains high

Food prices were 10.5 per cent higher this February than a year ago, much higher than the overall inflation rate of 5.2 per cent.

And there is scant expectation that food prices will decline any time soon.

But the overall inflation rate declined by the most it has since April. In January it was 5.9 per cent. 

The Bank of Canada aims to keep inflation below two per cent, so there remains a long way to go.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Olymel hikes wages

Even though the union contract stretches to 2027, Olymel has opened it to hike wages in an effort to attract and retain workers at its Quebec hog-packing plants.

Starting wages increase from $17 to $19.20 and hour and after a year of employment increase to $21.20.

The company is in financial straits and has been pressuring the pork marketing board to sharply reduce production by 850,000 hogs after two other reductions in the previous year.

It has also stopped buying hogs from Ontario.

The hog board wants the cuts to be across the board, but Olymel said it needs to run its relatively new and large farms at or near capacity.