Pork Commentary: June Pigs and Hogs Report

CANADA - This week's North American Pork Commentary from Jim Long.
calendar icon 30 June 2009
clock icon 7 minute read

The USDA June Hogs and Pigs Report had no surprises. The USA has fewer sows and fewer pigs, but is it good enough for a bounce in this market? In the last year and a half, the US breeding herd has declined from 6.233 million to 5.967 million, that is a drop of 266,000 while Canada has decreased at least 90,000 according to Stats Canada. In total, the last year and a half there has been a USA–Canada breeding herd decline of 350,000. It's a lot but some claim we need to remove a further 300,000. If this is correct the pain to get there will be brutal.

The June US market hog inventory is down from a year ago two per cent or about 1.1 million head. If things were normal, this would be positive. Last year in the 3rd quarter, prices averaged 57 cents per pound difference with no more hogs. H1N1, export market challenges and the domestic – global commodity have obviously had a big effect on demand loss.

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Other Observations

The US marketed 2.032 million hogs last week – down from last year's 2.140 (five per cent). When we look at daily lean weights it appeared the US slaughter weights last week were about two pounds lower than the previous week. The first hot weather of the year is having its effect. We believe hogs were pulled ahead in the last few weeks due to cool weather and despite heavier slaughter weights. Hot weather will cut tonnage. A year ago the market jumped 15 cents a pound from now until the first part of August. Few expected that jump. Markets move when most least expect.

Last week, we attended the Ontario Pork Congress. The annual Ontario Trade Show. Ontario has approximately 370,000 sows. Only a couple of producers have over 10,000 sows. Many are family producers farrow to finish feeding their own grain. The mood was what you would expect – virtually no optimism. There is liquidation in Ontario. We understand some banks are squeezing even producers that have kept up their loan payments. Lots of hog farms are for sale but values are being discounted. If a market moves when bullish – bearish sentiment is extreme one way or the other. The negative is maxed. We have hit the low.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation out to destroy the hog industry?

The publicly funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation continues to use swine flu instead of the official name H1N1. Read the letter below. We think this is a reflection of the overall insensitivity to the swine industry by several media outlets. The letter is a response to pork industry participant Dave Riachwho gave it to us. Maybe our pork organizations believe this type of twisted logic is acceptable. When we have pointed out their organizations lameness on doing something about media they attacked us. Read the article if you want to send your opinion to CBC. The e-mail addresses are: ssgai@tcc.on.ca and ombudsman@cbc.ca. Tell them your opinion. Fight for our industry. The condescending attitude that changing the name would be confusing is typical of media arrogance. Note the listed US media outlets group CBC uses to justify its ignorance.

Dear Mr. Riach:

Thank you for your email of June 3 addressed to Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman. Since CBC Radio falls in my remit, perhaps I can reply.

You wrote to draw our attention to a news story you heard that morning at 6:30am on CBC Radio in London. The story referred to 'swine flu' when in fact it is 'H1N1', you wrote. You added that the use of the term 'swine flu' is causing 'undue hardship' in the Canadian swine industry and suggested that its continued use was both irresponsible and a manipulation of public opinion. While I sincerely regret you are disappointed in CBC, I must tell you – and I do so with respect – that I do not agree CBC news is either irresponsible or manipulative.

We are continuing to use the term 'swine flu' for two reasons: clarity and accuracy. Let me explain. A little over a month ago now (April 30), the World Health Organization in Geneva announced it would stop using the term 'swine flu' and instead refer to the infection as 'influenza A (H1N1)'. It said the change came after pork producers and the UN food agency expressed concerns that the term was misleading consumers and needlessly causing countries to slaughter pigs.

Our senior journalists discussed it at some length, but after weeks of almost daily reports about swine flu, we felt changing the name at that point could be confusing. Particularly in anxious and emotional times, it is our goal and responsibility to Canadians to be as clear as possible in all our reports. Adding to the potential confusion, influenza A (H1N1) already exists. It is the virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and in a milder version still circulates most years. One expert pointed out that by using the same name, public health professionals and researchers would be left without a way to distinguish between a garden-variety flu sub-type and one that may trigger the next pandemic

It is also our responsibility to be accurate. Experts around the world said it is called swine flu because six of the eight genetic segments of the virus are purely swine flu (the other two are bird flu and human flu but are said to have lived in swine for the last decade). Scientifically, they said, calling the virus swine flu was both accurate and in keeping with accepted nomenclature of influenza.

For those reasons – along with, among others, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The Times, the BBC and other Canadian broadcasters – CBC News will continue to use the term 'swine flu'. We will also continue to evaluate that decision in light of further developments. You can find a more detailed account of our decision here: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/05/01/f-vp-enkin.html

I should emphasize, however, that we fully understand that we also have an obligation to continue to point out in our reports that eating pork cannot in any fashion lead to a flu infection. Although I think Canadians are now largely aware that is the case, during April and early May, CBC News repeatedly included that information in broadcast news stories.

Thank you again for your e–mail. I appreciate hearing your comments. While I realize my reply may not have changed your mind, at least I hope I have reassured you that this is a matter we have given some thought to and take seriously.

It is also my responsibility to inform you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by the CBC Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, and independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC's journalistic policies. The Ombudsman may be reached by mail at the address below, or by fax at (416)205-2825, or by e-mail at ombudsman@cbc.ca.

Yours sincerely,
Esther Enkin
Executive Editor
CBC News
Box 500 Station 'A'
Toronto Ontario
M5W 1E6
cc. Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman

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