U.S. Pork Exports - Are they really in trouble?

US Swine Economics Report by Ron Plain, this week discussing the situation regarding pork exports in the 1st quarter 2006.
calendar icon 15 June 2006
clock icon 3 minute read
Ron Plain
Ron Plain

Pork exports during the first quarter of 2006 were 22.2% higher than a year ago. However, April exports were down 10.1% compared to March and only 1.7% higher than April 2005. Thus, U.S. pork exports during the first third of 2006 were only 16.4% higher than during January-April 2005.

Before you decide that April exports were a real disappointment and U.S. pork exports are in trouble, consider the following. April U.S. pork exports were the second highest for any month, ever. Pork exports during April were down 10.1% from March, but U.S. pork production in April was down 13.8% compared to March. April exports were equal to 15.9% of the month's pork production. That is the highest percent ever for a month. Exports during April exceeded imports by an amount equal to 11.0% of U.S. pork production, also a record.

U.S. pork production during the first third of 2006 was up 92.9 million pounds compared to January-April 2005. U.S. pork exports during this period were up by 144.3 million pounds and pork imports were up by 17.5 million pounds. Thus, the improvement in net pork trade during the first four months of 2006 absorbed 126.781 million pounds or 136% of the 92.9 million pound increase in U.S. production.

Pork imports during April totaled 79.5 million pounds, an amount equal to 4.9% of U.S. pork production during the month. April imports were down 16% from March and up 3.7% compared to a year earlier.

Thus far in 2006, Mexico, South Korea and Russia have been the major growth markets for U.S. pork, accounting for 90.8% of the year-over-year increase in January-April pork exports.

Our biggest foreign customer, Japan, bought 9.7% less U.S. pork in the first third of 2006 than during January-April 2005. According to World Trade Atlas data, Japanese pork imports are down sharply this year, with imports from both Canada and Denmark down by a larger share than U.S. shipments. This decline is surprising to me, but not to everyone. Early this year, USDA's Foreign Ag Service predicted Japan would import 10.4% less pork this year than last.

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