WINGHAM, ONT. --
Canada’s pork and beef farmers are in trouble.
COVID-19 cases at several meat packing plants in Canada and the United States have disrupted an integrated supply chain and drastically dropped the price for pigs and cattle.
Pork processing capacity has fallen 20 per cent in Canada and 25 per cent in the U.S. since the dawn of COVID-19.
The Canadian Pork Council (CPC) estimates pork producers are losing as much as $30-$50 per pig.
Now they’re asking the federal government to pay them $20 per animal to keep the industry afloat.
Rick Bergmann is a pork producer and leads the CPC.
He says, "COVID-19 has quickly pushed farmers into a negative cash flow position. Their market returns don’t even cover the cost of operating their business."
It means that harsh decisions are being made on some pig farms across North America, as pigs reach market weight with no place to go.
"Decisions like aborting sows, and resorting to welfare slaughter, really are becoming very unavoidable," says Bergmann.
In the beef sector, processing capacity has been cut by a third thanks to the closure of the Cargill plant in Alberta. Losses are reaching $200 per animal thanks to the closure.
Beef farmers are hoping to resurrect a federal government program that paid them to keep cattle on their farms during the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) crisis - an infectious illness also known as mad cow disease.
"We learned many lessons during the hard years of BSE and it is time to implement the policies that previously helped us weather that storm," says Canadian Cattlemen’s Association boss, Bob Lowe.
The government says they are listening, and have offered up billions of dollars in loan possibilities through Farm Credit Canada.
"We’re working tirelessly to identify the best mechanisms to help farmers. There are programs available and we’re going to continue to look for the right solutions," says Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.
More loans won’t cut it, say pork and beef farmers.
"Really without some emergency support, farmers won’t be in a position to repay the debt they already have, let alone any debt taken on during the crisis," says Bergmann.