OTTAWA, ONTARIO — The Canadian Pork Council (C.P.C.) welcomed the Feb. 24 announcement by Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food-Canada extending the availability of the Hog Industry Loan Loss Reserve Program from March 1 to March 26th, 2010 — and to increase the government's share of the risk to 90% on loans used to repay advances received under the Advance Payments Program.

"These changes will provide producers additional time to review their business plans" said Jurgen Preugschas, chairman of the C.P.C., "and we hope allows financial institutions to issue additional loans under the program."

During the past few years, the Canadian hog industry has faced a number of serious challenges including concerns over H1N1, high feed costs, high exchanges rates and U.S. public policies. As a result, the industry has responded through dramatic restructuring and a determination to push ahead.

Statistics Canada released the fourth-quarter hog statistics for 2009 last week showing the continuing decline of the hog industry:

? There has been a 4.3% decrease in the Canadian breeding herd.
? The sow inventory is at 1.3 million head — a level not seen since 2000.
? The hog inventory is the lowest it has been in 12 years.
? The number of hog farms in Canada continued to decline to 7,360.
? Total hog exports amounted to 6.4 million head, down 31.9% from 2008.

A continued drop in Canadian hog numbers will begin affecting infrastructure and services, such as slaughter facilities, feed mills, the availability of transportation and veterinary services in many parts of rural Canada, the C.P.C. said.