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Que. hog farmers, packers ink supply deal

Quebec’s pork producers and nearly all slaughter plants handling Quebec hogs have signed on to end their previous auction system in a new marketing agreement following 18 months of talks.

“This is a great moment for us,” said Jean-Guy Vincent, president of the Federation des producteurs de porcs du Quebec (FPPQ), in a release Tuesday.

“This new agreement is proof of everyone’s will to work together to create a prosperous future for Quebec’s pork sector, especially on the world stage.”

Among the changes in store for hog producers in the new agreement, all pigs will be allotted to specific abattoirs, changing the FPPQ’s online auction service through which pork has been sold for the past 20 years.

The auction method, which allowed price fixing, will cease as soon as the new agreement comes into effect, the FPPQ said Tuesday.

“With this new agreement, whereby pork is assigned to the same plants, there will be an improvement in the relationship between producers and processors,” Vincent Breton of processor Viandes du Breton said in the federation’s release.

“With this new channel of communication now open, we look forward to new opportunities to improve the industry.”

Processors signing on to this agreement represent about 98 per cent of slaughter pigs, the FPPQ noted.

The new agreement follows a long, divisive negotiating process, into which the province stepped in September 2007 when it named civil servant Guy Coulombe to mediate talks between the 3,900-member FPPQ and Quebec’s packers.

By March 2008, Coulombe conceded he could not broker a deal between the two sides. Agriculture Minister Laurent Lessard’s assessment at the time was that the talks failed because producers and packers “do not speak the same language.”

The province’s pork sector had been hit as hard as any at that time due to the rising Canadian dollar, escalating costs for feed and low returns for hogs, as well as major disease issues in weanling herds between 2004 and 2006.

Following Coulombe’s report in March last year, the FPPQ said Tuesday, it decided to follow the suggestions Coulombe had offered, and hired a negotiator, Marcel Ostiguy, a processor by trade.

Ostiguy and FPPQ president Vincent went into talks with abattoirs throughout 2008, resulting in an agreement in principle with five abattoirs last June. On Dec. 8, however, with the document set to be ratified, Olymel was the only signatory present, FPPQ said.

The two sides then went into talks with a facilitator, Guy Blanchet. In February 2009, at the end of the conciliation period and still deadlocked, the parties went before the province’s ag marketing regulator, the Regie des marches agricoles et alimentaires, to start arbitration proceedings.

“Against all expectations, negotiations continued day and night until the May 8 deadline, finally culminating in a negotiated agreement,” the FPPQ said Tuesday.

According to a report Tuesday by the Quebec farmers’ newspaper La Terre de chez nous, the only major packer not to sign the new agreement is Les Aliments Lucyporc, based at Yamachiche, about 25 km west of Trois-Rivieres.

Lucyporc in March became Canada’s first integrated pork packer to earn registration and approval to export pork products to the European Union.

 

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