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Western Canada's pork processors continue to cope with COVID-19 disruptions

The General Manager of the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board says Western Canada's pork processing plants have done an effective job in coping with the disruptions resulting from actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

2 May 2020, at 9:20am

Pork processing plant closures in the United States due to COVID-19 have backed up the supply of live hogs causing live hog prices in North America to crash.

Speaking to Farmscape, Mark Ferguson, the General Manager of the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board says, plants in western Canada have implemented social distancing, added dividers, increased space between workers and even added extra shifts to protect their employees and are operating normally.

"Today most of the impact has been on the price side so the oversupply of hogs due to disruptions in the US has caused prices to go down, current cash prices and also futures prices," says Ferguson.

"Although we've seen some recovery in the past week or so, the losses are still great and it's a real issue facing farms today.

"With processing reductions, the good news is they're usually a temporary measure for a couple of weeks until the workforce has recovered and they've isolated the workers that may have been sick. So you're looking at a couple of weeks, best case scenario and the thing is we can probably hold hogs in barns for one to two weeks without too many issues.

"It's if you get multiple plants going down at the same time or for longer than two weeks that you might have a larger issue.

"The other thing we worry about are the feeder pigs going down to the US.

"If the producers that finish hogs are not able to empty out their barns and get those hogs to processing plants, they're not going to be able to fill them up with new weanling pigs which could cause some problems with feeder pig exporters.

"To date everything is moving normally but it is something we are following."

Ferguson says western Canadian plants are processing their normal amounts and, unless things change dramatically, he doesn't foresee any shortages of pork in Canadian stores.