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US pork exports surge to hit new record

Reuters reports that US pork exports in November surged to a record high for any month, according to new government data, driven by ASF which is stoking a meat shortage in China.

9 January 2020, at 11:58am

The shipments fuelled expectations for more big sales to China, although US hog futures slumped on Wednesday (8 January).

China, the world's largest pork consumer, needs to increase imports after its hog herd shrunk by about half because of the outbreak of ASF. The losses have pushed Chinese pork prices to record highs and roiled global meat markets. China has also increased imports from Europe and Brazil.

"They just have a terrific need," said Bob Brown, an independent US livestock market analyst. "They're needing to take it when they can find it."

Traders will review weekly US export sales data on Friday, one day later than usual because of a winter storm in Washington.

In November, total pork exports reached 259,814 tonnes, up 26 percent from a year earlier and 11 percent above the previous high set in July 2019, according to US Department of Agriculture data. Sales to China soared 589 percent from a year ago to 78,776 tonnes, about 35 percent of which were frozen carcasses. For January through November, exports to China jumped 134 percent to 472,811 tonnes, the data show.

"The surge in pork shipments to China will capture most of the headlines this month," said Dan Halstrom, president of the industry group US Meat Export Federation.

China maintains retaliatory tariffs on imports of US pork, imposed in the US-China trade war, giving an advantage to suppliers in Europe and South America. Still, analysts expect US exports to rise further in 2020 because of China's shortfall from African swine fever.

US President Donald Trump has said a so-called Phase 1 trade deal with Beijing would be signed on 15 January. It includes a commitment by China to buy more American agricultural products, although details have not been announced.

"Their prices are high enough that they could pay the tariff and still make money," said Steve Meyer, economist for US commodity firm Kerns and Associates.

Most actively traded February lean hog futures ended down 0.200 cent at 69.025 cents per pound at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In the beef market, February live cattle futures slipped 0.175 cent to 126.350 cents per pound. March feeder cattle futures advanced 1.400 cents to 146.525 cents per pound.