Farmers already gone as hog prices rise
Hog prices are up 65 per cent in the last 12 months, but the industry in the Maritimes is likely to remain a shadow of what it once was with most farmers already having left the industry.
The increase comes after years of lean years and the shutting down of the region's hog slaughterhouses. There are only about 20 producers left on P.E.I., down from about 400 in 2002. There were about 175 in Nova Scotia in 2002, and now fewer than 40.
Island farmer Lammert Woters is about to join those who have closed down their hog barns.
"I'm at a stage now that I'm getting rid of my last pigs," said Woters.
"Probably for the next two months I'll be shipping the last ones out."
Woters said after two decades of hog farming, letting his pigs go is most difficult decision he's ever had to make. Last year was the turning point he said. Prices were rock bottom, feed costs went to an all-time high, and then the region's last hog processing line closed last winter.
"The cost of shipping animals away, and with the prices down for so long, you know, we had to make that decision," he said.
"It was almost like the pig farm business on P.E.I. is totally disappearing and we didn't see for the next few years that it would come back."
But not everyone is giving up, and the hope of those remaining has been renewed by the price increase.
"Over the last 12 months, we've seen quite a change in the markets, what we're being paid for our hogs," said farmer Paul Larsen, who chairs the P.E.I. Hog Commodity Marketing Board.
"Last year at this time, in June of 2009, the market price would have been probably around $1.07, $1.08 and this current week we're seeing prices around $1.64 per kilogram."
Larsen said he's holding on to his pigs, and he hopes prices will hold on as well.