Bright prospects for pork, if NAFTA proceeds

BANFF, Alta. — New hog processing plants in the United States are bullish for the Canadian pork industry, says agricultural consultant Larry Martin.

Figures he provided at the Banff Pork Seminar Jan. 11 show this is the fifth year of hog herd expansion in the U.S., which now has 73 million hogs and indicates pork demand is strong.

Martin said in an interview that even with a growing U.S. hog herd, Canadian hog producers can help supply the new processing plants. But that’s contingent on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement now being renegotiated and is under threat of cancellation by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“If the market stays open, it’s a good thing for Canada because they’re either going to want our weaner pigs to finish down there to go through their plants or they’re going to want our finished hogs to go through their plants, so it can’t be a bad thing in that regard,” he said.

“The question is, are markets going to stay open because we don’t know what’s going to happen on NAFTA, because we’re so bent on, apparently, saving supply management that we haven’t thought about the other commodities and what the implications are for them.”

Trump recently suggested the talks could be extended beyond March, when Mexican elections take place.

Martin was critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hesitance toward a new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that would likely be favourable for red meat exports.

He also questioned Canada’s lack of investment in transportation and port facilities that would enhance export capability.

“It’s more in the grain industry, of course, where we have the problem because we haven’t done anything to improve rail facilities in this country since 1898 maybe, something like that. We’re going to get more and more congested at the port for everything.

“I can’t understand why we’re not thinking about this. Brazil has already sunk billions of dollars into transportation and port facilities to get the grain out of Mato Grosso and places like that. Russia and Ukraine are now the low cost producers of wheat in the world. They’ve got huge storage stocks at the moment and they’re putting billions of dollars into transportation and storage facilities.

“And here we are in Canada …There are some private companies investing in port facilities, but I don’t hear any talk out of government about it at all, whether it’s for grain or refrigeration or whatever. It makes no sense to me.”

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