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Canadian consumers will have continued access to adequate pork supplies despite processing plant disruptions

The General Manager of the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board is confident Canadian consumers will continue to have access to adequate supplies of pork in spite of processing plant disruptions.

30 April 2020, at 1:21pm

The biggest impact on Saskatchewan hog farmers from COVID-19 has been a dramatic drop in live hog prices due to reduced slaughter hog demand as the result of pork processing plant closures, mostly in the United States. Mark Ferguson, the General Manager of the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board says, in western Canada plants are all operating normally.

"We know the plants have all implemented social distancing measures in their facilities," says Ferguson, in an interview with Farmscape.

"They've all got different break areas to spread the workers out, dividers and increased space between workers and some plants have even added a second shift with half the employees there at a time.

"We know they're doing everything they can to protect their work forces and it's been successful so far.

"Eastern Canada has had two different plant closures but is, for the most part, holding things together.

"In Canada things are going reasonably well on the pork processing side and we don't expect there will be any shortages of Canadian pork going into the stores. The issues that are cropping up seem to be mostly in the US.

"Last week we know that US hog slaughter was down by 15 percent. This week it's looking like it's going to decline by 40 percent by the end of the week. There are hundreds of thousands of hogs that are not able to get processed so hogs are backing up into barns.

"We're producing less pork in North America, the wholesale pork price is rising which is a good thing but, due to the excess number of hogs out there, live hog prices aren't rising at the same rate as pork prices so there's a bit of a disconnect there."

Ferguson says, unless things change dramatically, he doesn't foresee any shortages of pork in Canadian stores. He says western Canadian plants are processing their normal amounts and we export a lot of that pork so we may see more pork moving to the US if they have shortages there.