Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm pleased to have this opportunity to meet with this committee today.
The pork value chain round table is dealing with a number of things. The Canadian pork industry is world-renowned for production standards and high-quality products. In 2011, we had sales of just over $3.2 billion and exported to more than 100 countries.
To maintain an advantage over global competitors, it is essential to offer products that exceed expectations, that are really second to none, and to differentiate the quality of offerings and add value to the final product. On that note, we've been able to successfully move more product, from frozen to fresh, into international global markets.
The pork value chain round table was launched in 2003 to provide a platform for discussing ideas, priorities, and solutions that will contribute to the long-term success of the industry. Like all round tables, the pork value chain round table requires input from across the supply chain. The suppliers include exporters and retailers and others involved in getting our pork to the marketplace.
Our round table focuses on competitiveness issues affecting the sector, and a strategic framework that is structured around four pillars drives our agenda. Number one is creating a competitive environment; two is maintaining market penetration; three is value chain integrity; and four is adding innovation to our industry.
The key challenge over the last five years has been to move from a period of the industry's surviving to one of its succeeding. In 2007 we were faced with a rapidly changing Canadian dollar, higher feed prices, and competition from various other interests that created difficult times for our industry. We really did see some repositioning of our business.
The success of the Canadian pork industry is largely dependent on its ability to differentiate the quality of offerings and add value to the final product. We've been involved in such things as Canadian quality assurance programs, which provide food safety and assurance for our customers globally.
The Canadian pork industry must be able to compete with international competitors. In the pork industry, the number one exporter globally is the United States, followed by the EU, and Canada is in third position. It is the Americans who set the benchmark.
We need to look at things such as improvements to transportation logistics to facilitate trade, the development of ways to reduce operating costs, and the improvement of the regulatory environment.
It's interesting to observe how regulations and logistics can affect the marketplace. I was amazed to learn that it costs more to move product from Red Deer to Vancouver than it does from Montreal to Vancouver. The difference is that one moves by rail and one goes across the tall hills by truck. Those things can be worked out with a focused interest and people working together.
The round table, in collaboration with government, is investigating how Canada's revenues and costs stack up against those of the U.S. and in fact global competitors. We know that Canada's ability to produce high-quality pork ranks with the very best—Brazil and maybe a couple other jurisdictions would be in the same position as Canada and the United States.
In reference to market penetration, the success and strength of the industry depends on access to markets around the world. This has been a strength of Canada. Our ability to export to 100 different countries is pretty amazing and is something we're very proud of. As with beef, market access is critical for the pork supply chain.
By negotiating access within countries' import regimes, addressing compliance requirements of international markets, completing free trade agreements, and implementing effective promotional programs to highlight Canadian products in key markets, we can ensure that Canadian products have access to lucrative global markets. There really is a difference between markets. Some are high-priced, high-quality markets, and some not so much.
The supply chain must provide the systems to ensure food safety, provide for animal welfare and traceability, and ensure stringent biosecurity measures. And that speaks to our health in Canada. It's interesting that Canada probably exports genetics to more countries globally than any other country in the world, and it's because we have a very good health status, and that's a prerequisite. Many of the leading genetic companies have located international operations to Canada for that very reason.
Our sector is currently finalizing an action plan on issues and initiatives that could influence different segments of the supply chain. We regard innovation and research as critical to maintaining the competitiveness of our industry. Our minister has been wise in investing in various initiatives in our industry, such as the Canadian Swine Health Board, which helps to maintain the status we have as a high-quality supplier of healthy pork and genetics.
Research and development priorities of pork producers include increasing food safety, enhancing animal welfare, reducing costs of production, and generating novel feed inputs. The pork round table is working to ensure that industry members take advantage of ongoing research being conducted throughout this sector.
What we see as our next steps, priority issues for 2012, include continually moving forward on the pillars of the strategic framework, maintaining our domestic market, initiating traceability across Canada, funding research and innovation, continuing to work with our federal government on market access, and ensuring our industry is prepared for emergencies.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, the pork sector has been through a tremendous amount of change over the last few years, but with collaboration on all levels, we will continue to strive towards a sector that is profitable, sustainable, and innovative. Thank you.