CME: Where are World Pig Numbers Headed?

US - CME's Daily Livestock Report for 2nd September 2008.
calendar icon 3 September 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

Where are world pig numbers heading? That question is being posed in many quarters these days. Higher costs would say they are heading downward but growing worldwide demand has driven prices high enough to compensate for the higher costs — at least in the very near term. So how many pigs are there in various countries?

Remember the China principle: 1.3 billion times any number is a very big number! It applies to hog numbers, too. As can be seen below, China’s pig numbers dwarf the rest of the world in the same way that China’s other numbers do. These data from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service indicate that China will have roughly 500 million pigs in inventory at the end of 2008. Note that these numbers reflect official Chinese government data. Those say that China’s herd declined by 15.5 million head from 2005 to 2007 while many private sources estimate that China lost as many as 100 million pigs during the high fever/blue ear disease outbreak of 2006-2007. Even if losses were that large, China’s herd still dwarfs those of all other major pork producing countries.

China’s ministry of agriculture announced last month that midyear pig numbers are 9% higher than one year ago and that sow numbers are up 22% over the same time period. If applied to USDA-FAS’s stats, those increases would mean that China’s 2008 total inventory would be 538.9 million head and its sow here would number 53.68 million head. Those figures are 51.1 million and 9.6 million head larger than USDA estimates. See the problem we have? The discrepancy in our estimates of China’s numbers are larger than most other countries’ entire herds!

Figure 1 provides a look at all countries except China in order to put them on a scale from which some distinctions may be drawn. As the EU has grown we have lost more and more detail regarding Europe’s hog numbers. USDA no longer publishes data for the individual countries but total EU-25 number have been quite stable near 160 million head for several years — at least until recently. The UK publication British Pig Executive estimated that the June 2008 EU breeding herd was 9% lower than one year ago.. EU only publishes official estimates in December. Applying the 9% decline to last December’s EU-25 sow herd estimate of 15.03 million head would put this year’s breeding herd number at 13.68 million head.

Figure 1

Figure 1 also shows quite clearly:

  • Last year’s surge in U.S. hog numbers caused primarily by the introduction of circovirus vaccines
  • The dramatic decline of Russia’s herd in the 1990s and the slow pace of rebuilding that herd — a major driver of Russia’s trade decisions
  • Canada’s declining hog numbers and the fact that Canada’s herd has never been “large“ by world standards even though it has been a major player in world pork markets
  • A remarkably stable Brazillian herd. Since 1980, Brazil’s exports have grown by 375% while its hog herd has grown by only 4.7%

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