Wednesday, March 23, 2022

China still refusing pork from some plants

China is still refusing to accept pork from some Canadian packing plants, Rene Roy, first vice-president of the Canadian Pork Council said in answer to a question Mike Petrovic of Wellington County posed during the Ontario Pork annual meeting Wednesday.

He said China refuses pork from plants where “a certain percentage” of workers have contracted COVID-19.

He did not name the plants, but he did indicate that some plants that were off the list are now back and shipping to China.

Conestoga Meat Packers at Breslau was one of the plants temporarily off the list of Chinese-approved plants. It is not clear whether it is now back on.

Roy also answered Petrovic’s question about zoning, saying the United States, Singapore and Viet Nam have approved Canadian Food Inspection Agency plans to establish trading bans on pork in case of an outbreak of a foreign animal disease such as African Swine Fever.

The CFIA and Canadian government are negotiating with Japan and several other nations that buy Canadian pork, he said.

Canada would be divided east and west in Northern Ontario with only one part of the country facing an export ban should there be an outbreak in the other part of Canada.

Roy also outlined progress in establishing the African Swine Fever Management Board and plans to keep the disease out of Canada or to contain it if it does break out here.

Ken Ovington, operations manager for Ontario Pork, said work will commence this summer to help farmers to develop emergency response plans for ASF. He said the goal is to have a third of Ontario’s hog farms onboard by the end of the year.

He said Ontario is developing plans for disposal of hogs if a herd needs to be euthanized. The board is going to buy equipment and conduct simulations of an ASF outbreak.

Roy said at the national level, one of the upcoming steps is to incorporate abattoirs in emergency response plans.

Roy said the animal welfare code for hog farmers will be amended to delay the ban on sow farrowing crates from 2025 to 2029.

“We still have some steps to go through” to get that change officially adopted, he said.

He said a nation-wide shortage of labour “has hurt us as an industry” at both the farm and meat-packing links in the supply chain.

The Canadian Pork Council is lobbying to reduce paperwork and time delays in importing temporary foreign workers. For example, he said that for returning workers, it should not be necessary to continue to file as much paperwork as for a new worker.

In the longer term, the council is going to join other industry groups who have similar requirements for more workers. For example, he said meat packers have a limit of 10 per cent of their workforce, yet even filling that with temporary foreign workers leaves them with too many vacancies.

He said the council is watching Ontario closely as it works on establishing a benchmark for carbon emissions. The aim is to demonstrate that hog farmers are reducing carbon emissions and therefore should be allocated credits.

Ontario Pork ended the year in strong financial position. One major expense was $1.5 million for a swine research center at the Elora Research Station and another $1.5 million will be paid this year.

The board is asking governments to match the percentage they offered beef farmers when they contributed to a new beef research center at Elora.

Rein Minnema once again drew attention to the lack of hog-packing capacity and urged the pork board to support anyone who intends to build or increase capacity.

Board chairman John DeBruyn said Conestoga Meat Packers intends to expand, but is not yet ready to announce its plans.

He said the pork board is eager to work with anyone who will increase hog-slaughtering capacity.

Olymel cancelled some Ontario contracts when it closed one plant and re-purposed another in Quebec and reduced some other contracts, he said in answer to a question.

He said some of the hogs that were under contract have since been contracted to plants in Western Canada and the United States.