by SUSAN MANN
A reduction in the frequency of the Statistics Canada hog survey report is a cutback in the quality and quantity of information that can influence decision makers and entrepreneurs, says agricultural economist Ken McEwan, of the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown campus.
The change in the report’s frequency has also prompted the United States to cancel publication of the joint hog report it completes with Canada that was to be due out later this month.
Earlier this year, Statistics Canada changed the frequency of its hog survey to twice a year from four times annually. Data for the July and January reference periods will continue to be collected and published. The October and April collections are discontinued.
McEwan says there could potentially be huge impacts for farmers from the reduction in the frequency of the report because “it only takes modest changes in supply to have huge impacts on demand, which then affects price.”
The joint Canada/U.S. report contains an inventory of the 6.2 million pigs on the North American continent, he says. The USDA reports its data right down to the state level and it’s “very interesting to see what states are growing, what states are shrinking and by how much along with what’s likely to be coming on the market within the next six months.”
McEwan notes “one of the important things about supply and demand and business environments and entrepreneurship is access to information and having quality of information and this is a clawback in that quality of information.”
But Bill Parsons, Statistics Canada commodity section chief, says ‘the feeling was the (hog) industry was stable enough that we only needed to measure it twice a year.”
The two hog surveys Statistics Canada is still doing yearly should be “sufficient to see any changes that are coming along within the industry,” he says. The data is still available and is now free on the Internet whereas previously there was a fee for the hog publication.
Statistics Canada announced the frequency change in the hog report on its website June 27 along with a number of changes to agricultural and other reports. The changes were made to “meet savings targets announced in the Economic Action Plan, 2012 of $33.9 million by 2014-15,” the agency says in its announcement.
“To meet its commitments, Statistics Canada has focused resources where they are most needed,” the agency says. It claims savings incurred through these program adjustments “represent moderate reductions in the production of statistics.”
Parsons says the changes were made as “part of the restructuring and the budget restrictions.”
The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service announced this month that it wouldn’t publish the United States and Canadian Hogs Publication, scheduled for release Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. The next joint report is scheduled for February 2013.
Bruce Boess, USDA’s statistics service section head for poultry and specialty commodities, explains they can’t do the report on their own because they need the Canadian data. The USDA is continuing to do its hog reports four times a year.
For Statistics Canada, some changes to other agricultural reports include:
• Farm cash receipts is being released semi annually instead of quarterly;
• Farm product price index is being released quarterly instead of monthly;
• Farm product prices survey - the potato, straw and hay, grain and oilseed and grain and specialty crop prices are all discontinued while other components of the survey will continue; and
• Fruit and vegetable survey is being released once a year instead of twice a year. The spring data collection has been discontinued for this survey. BF