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Turkey Production Quotas Cut

by 5m Editor
20 April 2009, at 9:52am

CANADA - Turkey Farmers of Canada has mandated that production is to be cut by an average of six per cent across all weight categories, as a result of declining national consumption due to higher prices and the difficult economic situation.

Sales of whole and processed turkey products at the farm store run by Mike and Wayne Oegema, in Elgin County, have increased both annually and in month-to-month comparisons, reports Better Farming.

But Oegema Turkey Farms Inc. is going to cut back production by 2,000 birds from the 55,000 they normally raise annually.

The reason is that turkey sales across Canada are down and the national agency, Turkey Farmers of Canada, has mandated that production be cut by an average of six per cent across all weight categories.

Phil Boyd, executive director of Turkey Farmers of Canada says a growth in inventory signaled the decline in demand that began mid-2008. He attributes the slowdown to escalating farm input costs that boosted wholesale, and ultimately retail, prices at a time when the global economy took a turn for the worst. Provincial organizations set the live price processors must pay producers.

"We're not particularly unique," he says. "The meat market right now is in tough shape for a variety of reasons." Declining consumer interest for higher value cuts or processed products, is one. Mr Boyd confirms that an outbreak of listeria that temporarily closed a Maple Leaf Foods processing facility in Toronto is another.

For Ontario's 192 turkey producers, including the Oegemas, it means coping with reductions in the number of birds they can raise. Mike Oegema credits the buy local movement for the steady trade. They also sell wholesale to a local processor. They are not in a position to expand their retail operation in order to direct market all of their birds.

Knowing everyone has to cut production makes it easier to accept. "I'm glad the industry has taken some decisive steps to get this ship going in the right direction again," Mr Oegema told Better Farming.

Cuts in quota range from 4.75 per cent to 8.75 per cent, depending on the bird weight category. The Oegemas are considering exchanging some quota held in larger bird production for more in smaller birds.

Janet Schlitt, general manager of Turkey Farmers of Ontario, says the listeria outbreak "may have impacted the sales of deli products but did not affect sales of whole birds, turkey parts and turkey products such as ground turkey".

The reductions are "only temporary", she said, and she predicts production levels will rise "once our storage stocks have been reduced". She did not respond to questions about the live price of turkeys in Ontario.

Mr Boyd predicts markets will recover "somewhat gradually" after next year.

In 2008, Canada's 548 turkey producers generated 179 million kilograms of product with a farm-gate value of CAD 388.5 million, according to Better Farming.