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CME update: lean hog futures slide amid diplomatic tensions between the US and China

US lean hog futures dropped on 28 May as traders feared the tension between China and the US could limit Chinese purchases of pork.

29 May 2020, at 9:51am

Reuters reports that lean hog futures dropped by as much as their daily trading limit on 28 May. Traders worried that the escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing could limit US pork purchases by China, the world’s biggest pork consumer.

US-China relations have soured as the Trump administration has threatened China with sanctions due to its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The American administration is also concerned over Beijing’s moves to assert greater authority over Hong Kong.

Since last year, China has ramped up US pork imports to meet consumer demand after African swine fever halved the country’s pig herd. Pork imports are also a cornerstone of the Phase 1 trade deal between China and the US. That agreement stipulates that China will ramp up purchases of US farm goods.

"I've reined in my expectations for Chinese buying," said Rich Nelson, chief strategist with Allendale Inc.

Continued concerns over hog supply chain disruptions and pork plant closures due to coronavirus infections among workers also weighed on prices, he added.

More than 3,000 US meatpacking workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 44 have died, the country's largest meatpacking union said on Thursday.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) June lean hogs ended 3.250 cents lower at 56.925 cents per lb. Most-active July futures traded limit-down but ended 3.650 cents lower at 55.650 cents per lb.

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