HyLife Foods celebrated the expansion of its hog processing plant in Neepawa, MB, this week — an expansion that has been driven by growing demand for Canadian pork in Japan and China.
The La Broquerie-based company has added 100,000 square feet to the facility, including new cutting floor space, a shipping/packaging area, and more cooling space.
“We’re going to be able to do a full two shifts at Neepawa. We are on two shifts today, but the second shift is at a slower speed, so we’re going to increase pigs by about 15 percent, so we should we be at about two million hogs per year,” explains HyLife president Claude Vielfaure in the podcast below.
Daily capacity in Neepawa will be increasing to 7,500 head by this summer, up from around 6,500 pigs per day prior to the expansion.
The upgrades will also allow the company to offer longer shelf life for Japanese customers, since most of the pork shipped to Japan is chilled and not frozen, says Vielfaure.
The expansion is part of a $176 million investment over two years by HyLife in its integrated production and processing supply chain. The investment includes a new feed mill that’s under construction near Killarney, Man., as well as several new barns in Western Manitoba.
The company has added 165 jobs, bringing its employee total to approximately 2,000.
In addition to the processing plant expansion in Neepawa, Vielfaure discusses the provincial government’s willingness to allow new hog barn expansion, the opportunities for Canadian pork exports in the Trans-Pacific Partnership or CPTPP, as well as the impact of China’s potential tariffs on U.S. pork exports:
On Manitoba’s PC government ending the province’s moratorium on new hog barn construction:
“With the government getting rid of some of the red tape, that’s helped us be able to move forward and start applying for permits, and hopefully get permits and be able to build barns.”
On Japanese demand for Canadian pork:
“Over the years, we’ve had a position that we wanted to create the best tasting and juiciest pork that we could make, and because of that, our market growth in Japan has increased significantly. The Japanese country and people are very good connoisseurs of pork and understand the quality and the taste.” (HyLife opened a restaurant in the trendy Daikanyama district of Tokyo two years ago as part of its branding campaign in Japan)
On opportunities for increased Canadian pork exports in the CPTPP, which includes Japan:
“Japan’s been a big buyer of pork already. I think that’s going to be equal or better going forward, but the TPP actually opens other markets for us, and that’s what’s exciting for us… countries like Vietnam, Malaysia.”
On China’s proposed tariffs on U.S. pork:
“Trade disputes are never a good thing… There won’t be any less pork being produced. It’s just going to be sold in different places. It probably opens the door for more pork from other countries, including Canada to be sold there, but the U.S. will move their pork and sell it to other countries ,which will disrupt trade with people already selling pork there.”
On China’s significance as a market for Canadian pork (China is Canada’s 2nd largest pork export market, next to the U.S.):
“Prices in China have softened up quite a lot in the last six to 12 months, but it was a very good market for us for one to three years ago. China buys pieces of the pig that are different than Japan, so more heads, feet and organs. It’s a lower value cut of the pig, and so when you get strong prices on lower value parts of the pig, it’s a really positive thing.”