by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Top of mind at the Ontario Pork annual general meeting this week was hog processing capacity; in particular, where to put the hogs displaced after workers at a Quebec plant went on strike on March 18.
Amy Cronin, chair of Ontario Pork, described the strike at Olymel's Valée-Jonction plant as "an unfortunate situation."
Even though the plant is in a pig-producing area south of Quebec City, hogs from Ontario make up the lion’s share of the 35,000 killed every week in two shifts. “There are 20,000 hogs (a week) that have been displaced,” Cronin says. “Our marketing division has been really successful in placing those hogs. We hope they will be able to continue to do that. Ultimately of course, we want Olymel to start up again and have those hogs continue to go there.
“There are some that are going to Ontario. There are a lot of hogs going to the States.”
According to an Olymel press release, the company “believes that cancellation of its hog deliveries from Ontario has already compromised a full resumption of activities if the Vallée-Jonction plant were to resume operations."
Quebec has gone from Ontario’s nemesis to Ontario’s savior.
A year ago Ontario plants were straining to keep operating under capacity with a shortage of hogs, with those 20,000 plus a week being siphoned off to Quebec. Then Quality Meat Packers in Toronto failed financially, followed by Great Lakes Specialty Meats in Mitchell, also owned by the Schwartz family, in late May. Even though the Mitchell plant was purchased last September by Sofina Foods, the province’s largest pork processor, "my understanding is that won't open up as a hog processing plant again," Cronin says.
In related resolutions, delegates directed the board to engage the government in drafting a swine stockyards act that would protect and reimburse producers in instances of non-payment. Ontario Pork staff is working with the Ontario Farm Product Marketing Commission and the Hog Industry Advisory Council “to identify and flesh out options for financial protection for the Ontario Hog industry” and five other options are also being investigated. BF