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Canadian pork industry gets recipe for progress at Banff Seminar

by 5m Editor
27 January 2003, at 12:00am

Banff, Alta. - Canada's pork industry, emerging from one of the worst years in recent history, got a recipe for progress from a range of industry leaders at the Banff Pork Seminar.

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In a series of keynote presentations at the Seminar - attended by approximately 850 pork producers, researchers, extension and education specialists, as well as agribusiness service and supply representatives - speakers championed a head-on approach to tackling challenges.

To prosper under current pressures, says Alberta business leader Ruth Kelly, the industry must focus on image for the future and work to entrench the value of the pork industry in the minds of the business community and society.

"The entrepreneurial spirit which permeates this industry should gladden at the idea of a larger, more diverse marketplace in which to sell its quality wares," says Kelly, the editor and publisher of Alberta Venture magazine. "But you need to start at home. Your broader community needs to know that you are capable of competing and winning the battle for today's marketplace. They need to understand it is important to them that you do so."

Decide who is the real enemy was the advice of veteran industry consultant Mac Safley. Safley, based in North Carolina, says the mere mention of that state's name has proven enough to cause him to lose business. The negative aspects of the industry have worked themselves into the public perception and the pork industry needs to be vigilant.

On the environmental front, the industry faces challenges from an uniformed public, opportunist politicians, impractical regulations and anti-industry organizations, among others, says Safley, President of Agri-Waste Technology Inc. A key to winning this battle is education. "Staying educated on environmental matters is as important as staying in tune with the latest nutritional or reproductive management strategies. It is important to be knowledgeable about new technology that becomes available and adopt it when feasible."

Canada is the world's leading pork exporting nation, and while the U.S. is by far its largest customer, there are emerging opportunities in the rest of the world, says Bill McLean, Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales and Marketing with Maple Leaf Pork in Winnipeg.

"A key to capturing these opportunities is to focus on the customer - manipulating supply to meet demand only goes so far," says McLean. "We need to maintain contact with, and understand, every major market that buys pork." In doing so, Canadian players need to stop competing amongst themselves and work together as partners in world markets to meet the requirements of the customer.

Wrap-up speaker Larry Martin summed up the challenges ahead. "For an industry that is traditionally characterized by risk and uncertainty, there may well be even more than usual in the future," says Martin, CEO of George Morris Centre. "We see outbreaks of disease, rapidly changing consumer patterns of preference, and abrupt changes in government policy. "

While tackling these issues, Western Canada must also keep a close eye on its competitiveness, says Martin. The region has enjoyed cost advantages over many other locations in hog production, which has fueled the industry's dramatic growth, but this status is threatened by differences with the U.S. in feedgrain costs and feedgrain productivity, along with recent developments in U.S. farm policy and legislation.

Specifically, the U.S. has a production advantage in feedgrains - relying on corn rather than barley - and its competitive advantage is expected to be strengthened by the new U.S. farm bill, he says. A separate threat from the U.S. is new legislation that calls for Country of Origin Labeling. This legislation, scheduled to become mandatory in 2004, would add tremendous costs to the North American industry and bring uncertainty, along with a multitude of logistical challenges.

The Banff Pork Seminar, held annually since 1972, is one of the premier pork seminars in North America. The Seminar is coordinated by the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Alberta, in cooperation with Alberta Pork, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and other pork industry representatives. Full program and proceedings of the 2003 Banff Pork Seminar are available on the new Seminar Web site, www.banffpork.ca.

Source: Banff Pork Seminar - 24th January 2003

5m Editor