The fourteen day closure of an Olymel hog plant in Quebec has Ontario pork producers scrambling to find a slaughter destination for their finished hogs.
Ontario producers normally ship around 20,000 pigs to Quebec for processing each week. The plant at Yamachiche, Que. and its 1000 employees have not been operating since March 29 after nine employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Approximately 40 percent of the market pigs due for processing last week found a new slaughter destination, according to Eric Schwindt, chair of Ontario Pork.
Ontario Pork and the industry have been searching high and low for a home in Eastern Canada, the U.S. and Western Canada, he says. The 60 per cent of the inventory that was not slaughtered in week one is still an issue in week two of the shutdown. Schwindt describes the issue as one that “compounds” as hogs begin to back up.
Meanwhile, Olymel has filed for force majuere on its Ontario contracts to protect itself from decisions by the Quebec government on Monday. “My understanding is that Olymel had to do that. As a Quebec packer they operate under the laws of Quebec and over the next few days Quebec has to sort out their convention to figure out if Quebec processors will be able to take Ontario hogs,” explains Schwindt, in the interview below.
As the Ontario pork sector faces major issues in the short term, he says getting the plant back into operation will be good for Olymel and pork producers.
“We are feeling positive that the plant will be back up and running after the Tuesday after Easter, but we are working on plan B, C, and D.”
“As I reached out to producers and market analysts, there does not seem to be much animosity towards Olymel, but only concern for the situation everyone in the value chain is in,” notes Shaun Haney of RealAgriculture.
“Olymel has been good to work with and transparent and they understand that if they don’t process pigs, they have nothing to sell,” says Schwindt.