In the United States and Canada, the pork industry continues to feel the effects of Covid-19 and the pressure on packing plants. European pig processing plants are also feeling the effects of the virus more strongly.
For a variety of reasons, Covid-19 has seriously disrupted the US pork industry. On the one hand, various packaging and processing plants across the country have had to temporarily shut down due to the epidemics of Covid-19 among plant personnel. On the other hand, some factories are experiencing delivery difficulties because, for example, restaurants or food services have had to close.
Artist’s impression of a particle of SARS-CoV-2 virus. – Illustration: Shutterstock
Saving 1 million pigs
Illustrating the shortage of slaughter capacity in the United States, Dennis Smith, author of an American publication on pigs National hog producer said Monday, “Last week the number of victims fell 22% from the previous week and 35% from the previous year. The industry saved more than a million hogs last week. “
Depopulation or abortions
The effect is that pork producers in the United States and Canada have trouble marketing their hogs. Drastic solutions like depopulation or abortions have been reported and practical tips on how to manage the solution are presented in the webinars.
Use social media
Some pork producers have chosen different solutions and are using social media. In the USA FarmJournal Pork reported on custom feeders Brian and Corene Mehlhaf from South Dakota, who sold thousands of hogs after posting on Facebook. He said the message went from coast to coast.
What is the impact of the pandemic on the global pork sector and how are they coping with it?
Pork exports vs domestic supply
In an analysis published by the Reuters news agency, it was clearly explained how Covid-19 added another dimension to the growing pork exports to Asia. The United States had just prepared to send a lot of pork to China. Last year, the export of pork was relatively complex due to the US-China trade war. Once things have calmed down, the United States has been preparing to ship a lot of pork to China in recent months. Figures for March, for example, showed that record export levels have been reached.
Second highest volume ever recorded
World agriculture columnist Karen Braun cited data from the US Census Bureau, claiming that the United States exported 95,892 tonnes of pork and pork products to China in March 2020. She added that there were was the second highest volume ever recorded after December 2019. In addition, it US exports of pork and pork products to China in the first 3 months of 2020 totaled 280,507 tonnes, almost 3 times more than the 2014 record for the period and up 300% over the first 3 months of 2019.
Smithfield Foods plant reopens again
The good news came from Smithfield Foods, which has announced that its pork plant in Sioux Falls, SD, may reopen. In a press release, the company said that the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has carried out a thorough inspection of the site. Slaughter will begin on May 11, after being closed for more than 3 weeks. The plant is one of the largest in the United States.
At other sites, however, Covid-19 continues to affect the operation of pork plants. Earlier this week, Tyson Foods announced that it will suspend operations at its pork packing plant in Madison, NE, as operations are halted while further testing is underway. The plant had been operating at reduced capacity at the end of last week while it was testing its workforce for Covid-19. During the closure, the plant, processing 8,000 pigs / day, will be cleaned.
Canada: Producers Unhappy With Financial Compensation Offered
In Canada, pork producers are similarly affected by Covid-19 and its effect on processing capacity in Canada and the United States. In addition, the assistance offered by the federal government is considered insufficient. Learn more about this in a special contribution from our correspondent Treena Hein.
Europe: the effects of Covid-19 become apparent
In Europe, the effects of Covid-19 are also being felt. Prices for finishing pigs dropped considerably in the Netherlands and Germany. In recent months, hog prices have peaked due to additional demand from Asia related to African swine fever. Prices of sows and piglets are also expected to fall.
In Germany, Tönnies and Vion reduced their production to 80% of their capacity, simply because they cannot sell the meat they produce. And a German pig slaughterhouse had to close temporarily because 49 workers had contracted the virus. Vions owns this facility, located in Bad Bramstedt in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Another pig slaughterhouse, owned by Westfleisch in Coesfeld, in North Rhine-Westphalia, has decided to continue operating despite the fact that 129 plant workers have tested positive for Covid-19. German agricultural title Top Agrar said local authorities will now test the 1,200 employees.
Belgium: request for state support
In Belgium, the meat industry has knocked on the door of the federal authorities for support, as it becomes more difficult to sell meat products. The Belgian National Federation of Slaughterhouses (FEBEV) appealed for support because supply and demand have reached an imbalance. The Belgian pig industry has been hit harder than that of other Western European countries due to the presence of African swine fever in wild boar in the deep south of the country since September 2018. This has led to a reduction in the possibilities of for Belgian pork. However, the battle against the ASF virus seems to be a thing of the past.