Pork, Cattle Industries on 'Precarious' Perches

CANADA - Pork producers are on the ropes and some cattle producers in British Columbia are being forced out of business because of low prices, soaring feed costs and the strong Canadian dollar.
calendar icon 6 December 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
'As producers we're losing in the area of $50 to $60 for every hog we ship. It's not sustainable,' says Jack Dewit, a Langley hog farmer and chairman of the BC Pork Producers Association

While grain prices have more than doubled over the past 18 months -- riding a wave driven by subsidized U.S. demand for corn to make ethanol -- farmers across the continent are getting the lowest prices for their animals in years.

"We're in a really precarious situation," Langley farmer Jack Dewit, chairman of the B.C. Pork Producers Association, said in an interview Tuesday. "Our cost to feed a pig is $25 to $30 higher because of ethanol and then the strong Canadian dollar is adding another $25 to$30 per pig.

"As producers we're losing in the area of $50 to $60 for every hog we ship. It's not sustainable."

Up to 35 per cent of Canada's hog industry could disappear unless the market adjusts and people are willing to pay more for their food, said Dewit, who ships 8,000 to 9,000 animals each year.

Twenty-five of B.C.'s 27 commercial hog producers operate in the Fraser Valley and without change soon, some will quit the industry, he said.

"There will have to be evidence the political will is there to have hog farming in the Valley. If you've got land worth $60,000 an acre, why borrow against that just to lose it?"

B.C.'s 5,000 beef producers are also reeling in the face of ethanol-fuelled grain prices and the strong Canadian dollar, said Andrea Barnett, communications coordinator with the B.C. Cattlemen's Association.

The industry's problems come on the heels of the BSE (mad cow) crisis which has driven steer prices down from $1.35 per pound to about 95 cents. Farmers are also struggling with higher costs for fuel, labour and other inputs.

"The industry is not viable the way it is now," Barnett said in an interview. "We're definitely seeing a lot of people leave the business. There are dispersal sales everywhere."

She said some farmers are staying afloat by selling farm land which exposes it to development pressures, particularly in the Okanagan Valley.

Source: Vancouver Sun

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