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This Week's Pig News Round-Up

12 December 2011, at 11:28pm

ANALYSIS - Downsizing of the US pig industry in recent years seems to have benefited the survivors as pork exports for the year break records and producers are on course to return to profitability, writes ThePigSite senior editor, Jackie Linden. In Russia, pig meat imports could grow as soon as the country joins the World Trade Organization, putting producers there under more pressure.

October was another excellent month for US pork exports, according to the latest statistics reported by US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork exports set a new all-time monthly value record at $573.9 million – up 41 per cent from last year – which pushed the cumulative value for the year to October to a new annual record of $4.93 billion.

"Establishing new annual value records just 10 months into the year is an extraordinary accomplishment, and one that the US pork and beef industries should be very proud of," said USMEF President and CEO, Philip Seng. "Sustaining an aggressive export pace is critical for maintaining and creating American jobs and a positive balance of trade."

The main markets for American pig meat were China, Japan, Mexico, Canada and South Korea, all of which took higher volumes and/or values.

In related news, US pork producers could find themselves back in the black in 2012 after several years of struggling to earn a profit, according to Purdue Extension agricultural economist, Chris Hurt.

Profits in 2012 are forecast at about $17 per head, which would be the highest since 2006, he said. He added that while a return to profitability is welcome news, it seems there are more broad implications.

"The pork industry, like most other animal industries, has made the adjustments necessary to live in a world of high-priced feed," he said. "It also looks like the pork industry has probably 'turned the corner' on high feed prices heading into 2012."

The large financial losses of previous years resulted in some downsizing of the industry through discouragement and bankruptcy. As a result, the amount of pork available to US consumers has dropped from about 51 pounds per person in 2007 to an estimated 46 pounds per person in 2012. According to Professor Hurt, that reduction has helped retail pork prices climb from $2.87 per pound in 2007 to $3.43 per pound in 2011 – a 20 per cent increase.

Russian pig meat imports could grow from this year's 23 per cent of the market as soon as the country joins the World Trade Organization. This is the opinion of Yury Kovalyov, chief executive of the National Pig Farmers' Union, and it could start to bite as soon as early next year, he said.

The change stems chiefly from the government's agreement to reduce import duties for live pigs, he said. While Russia won a transition period of eight years to reduce pork duties, a cut in live pig imports from the current 40 per cent to 10 per cent will take effect immediately.

Russia's Ministry of Agriculture and Food has reported five new outbreaks of African swine fever between 13 October and 27 November in the country's south-west to the OIE. The affected population consists of both domestic pigs and wild boar in Volgograd oblast (two outbreaks), Saratov oblast, Krasnodar Krai and Tver oblast. In total, 218 wild boar were affected, of which 11 died and four were destroyed. Of the 263 domestic pigs affected, 20 died and the rest have been destroyed.

Greening of farming in the EU often makes farmers see red, which appears to be the case with the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) proposals. Last week, a panel representing the EU, environmentalists and farmers debated the 30 per cent greening element, reports Charlotte Johnston, ThePigSite editor.

Following on from last week's announcement of proposed EU regulation to reduce antibiotic use in animal agriculture, the German Farmers Association has said that pig farmers in Germany support antibiotic reduction but a complete ban would violate the Animal Welfare Act.