Record losses in the hog industry have forced hundreds of Manitoba producers to leave the business in recent years, according to the province's pork council.

Manitoba Pork says there were close to 5,000 hog producers in the province 15 years ago, but now there are fewer than 500. That means only one in 10 producers is still operating.

That number is expected to keep falling, as feed prices continue rising and hog prices remain low.

"This is probably the worst we've seen — worse than 1998 when literally, in the United States, finished pigs, 260-pound animals, were worth nothing," said Andrew Dickson, Manitoba Pork's general manager.

Dickson said most pigs in Manitoba these days are raised by three large companies and some Hutterite colonies.

With hog producers losing up to $25 a piglet, many independent producers cannot afford to stay in business, he added.

"We're looking at about a $150-million cash shortfall," he said.

"Some smaller producers are getting out of the business and some actually fairly large operations, by historical standards, have gotten out of the business, especially the weanling producers."

Dickson said he is already negotiating with governments for aid to help hog producers.