Alberta's pork industry is developing an aggressive revitalization strategy to revive its economically devastated industry. But to build an effective value chain in the marketplace, the industry first needs to address some fundamental problems, the chair of Alberta Pork told the organization's annual general meeting in Edmonton, Alta.
“Last year in my address, I asked people to think outside the box, to find different ways of working within our industry,” says Herman Simons, pork producer from Tees, Alta. “What we found working on our revitalization strategy the past year is that for that to happen, for us to restructure and move forward, a number of things need to be fixed first.”
One of the biggest challenges is a big disconnect between different parts of the industry that prevents the flow of a lot of critical information, he says. That makes it difficult to reorganise the industry in a framework fundamental to a proper value chain.
“We are tied together through the product we produce,” says Simons. “That product, no matter what you do in the supermarket, will be represented by the brand that it carries. In my opinion that's an area that we need to concentrate on and an area in which producers need some ownership.
“Through the brand vehicle I believe there is an opportunity for all stakeholders to have that ownership, to work together in the same direction to allow each of us to benefit independently through an interdependent process.”
That's the ideal picture, acknowledges Simons. How it becomes reality depends on overcoming resistance to participation and how roadblocks are addressed.
“If we as stakeholders in this industry start to work together and realize that we are so interdependent that we can't do without each other, then it's not that much of a leap to start working together, open communications and build something that is different and more viable than it has ever been,” he says.
Simons also challenged governments. “The loan program that had been brought out by the federal government, quite clearly is not doing the job,” he says. “We need both the federal and provincial governments to know how important that program is in order for us to maintain an industry in the short term.
“Something has to be done either to make that program work better or to restructure it. If that doesn't happen, I'm afraid we could go downhill in a hurry.”
Alberta Pork will select its chair and executive for 2010 from the board members elected at recent regional meetings. That will take place at the first meeting of the new board in late December.