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Light at End of Tunnel for Alberta Pork Sector

10 December 2013

CANADA - Alberta's pork industry has witnessed its share of struggles. However, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel as hog operations in the province are now returning to the point where they are turning a profit, according to Alberta Pork Council director Art Bonthius.

Mr Bonthius updated the Alberta Federation of Agriculture on the state of the pork industry at the federation's regional meeting last week in Taber.

"We have had a long stretch of negative returns," he said.

"The last five years have been tough for guys who have been selling hogs."

Mr Bonthius said this summer, hog prices started to rebound. The industry has also benefited from lower feed prices, as he added producers were dealing with $8 a bushel feed grain prices. "Feed is 70 per cent of our input costs," said Bonthius. "This year with feed at $6, we came back to a profit position around July."

Hog prices are down from those summer highs, he added, though there is a sense of optimism throughout the industry, optimism which was hard to come by in previous years.

"It's been crappy for so long and a lot of people went broke, but I think it's coming back now," said Mr Bonthius. He added there are still challenges in the industry, as he noted the draft code of practice for the care and handling of pigs in Canada, which includes measures to limit pork producers' use of gestation stalls.

Mr Bonthius added the hope is any changes such as those in the draft code of practice could be grandfathered in for new buildings. "It has to be practical," he said, as he mentioned much of Europe has yet to adopt the sow-stall bans.

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