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Weekly Overview: Bulls, Bears and the US Pig Industry

01 July 2013

ANALYSIS - The latest US 'Hogs & Pigs' report has been described as 'slightly bullish', while 'bearish' is how a US-based grain analyst described the latest USDA corn acreage estimate, which has weakened grain futures. A new report from the University of Illinois compares and contrasts the pig industries of the US and China, which may be drawn closer together by the Shuanghui-Smithfield deal. New legislation has been drawn up to prohibit the use of human antibiotics in the feed and water of healthy farm animals if they jeopardise human health.

The latest USDA 'Hogs and Pigs' report shows a trend towards increased numbers of both breeding and market animals for the quarter April-June 2013.

Compared to the previous 'Hogs and Pigs' report in March, there were two per cent more hogs and pigs in total on 1 June at 66.6 million head, and market hogs were also up by two per cent at 60.8 million.

There was one per cent more breeding pigs but fewer farrowings for the quarter than in the same period of 2012.

US analysts see the report as slightly ‘bullish’ overall.

Ron Plain and Scott Brown comment on the ‘Hogs and Pigs’ report highlights that the breeding herd was up 0.3 per cent compared to a year ago and the market hog inventory was down 0.1 per cent. The number of sows farrowed this spring was down two per cent. Farrowing intentions for June-August was down 0.1 per cent and fall farrowing intentions are up one per cent.

On the other hand, ‘bearish’ is how a US-based grain analyst described the latest USDA corn acreage estimate, which has weakened grain futures, offering the prospect of falling feed prices.

Jim Wyckoff has commented that US ‘new-crop’ December corn futures fell to a 12-month low of $5.11 a bushel last Friday (28 June) after the USDA unexpectedly raised its estimate of US corn plantings this spring.

USDA estimated US corn plantings at 97.4 million acres, up from its previous estimate of 97.28 million acres in March, and well above the average trade estimate of 95.34 million acres. Total US corn stocks as of 1 June were below traders’ expectations.

The bearish corn data also helped to pull soybean and wheat futures prices lower.

Following the announcement of the offer by Shuanghui International of China to purchase Smithfield Foods, a global food company heavily involved in pork production and based in the US, a comparison of pork consumption and production in the two countries has been compiled by Gary Schnitkey of the University of Illinois.

Chinese pig meat consumption is currently more than six times that of the US and continues to grow, which the analyst says represents potential for US pork and grain sectors.

He highlights that while there are doubts over whether the Chinese pork industry can maintain domestic pork production growth, US production has increased faster than local consumption, resulting in the US being a net exporter of pork production.

A Chinese company's purchase of Smithfield may aid in technology transfer and access to pork production outside China, according to Dr Schnitkey, while Chinese growth continues to offer prospects for both the pork and grain sectors in the US as well as other exporters, most likely from South America.

Also in the news last week in the US, there was an indication that the Smithfield-Shanghui deal might not be approved. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry is to examine foreign purchases of American food companies, including the acquisition of Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui International.

And finally, Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced new legislation to combat antibiotic-resistant superbugs that develop when antibiotics are misused in animal agriculture.

The Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act of 2013 directs the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit the use of human antibiotics in the feed and water of healthy farm animals if they jeopardise human health.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock



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