“Spectacularly strong” demand fuels record year for pork exports

Exports of fresh, chilled and frozen pork set a record in 2011, but will likely dip this year.

“Demand for Canadian pork products from China, South Korea and Russia were spectacularly strong in 2011,” said Martin Rice, executive director of the Canadian Pork Council.

The final tally came to 1.15 million tonnes, surpassing the previous record of 1.1 million in 2010, Rice said. Sales to South Korea jumped 70 per cent following an outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease, while Chinese demand grew by about 35 per cent thanks to rising incomes and demand for meats. Exports to Russia also soared, climbing by 60 per cent in 2011.

However, sales to major markets such as Mexico and Australia fell in 2011. Exports to the U.S. and Japan were also down, but the setback was smaller in comparison, Rice said.

“The U.S. has been and will continue to be a reliable market for Canadian pork products,” said Rice, adding South Korea is expected to reduce purchases once the foot-and-mouth disease issue under control and hog herds are rebuilt.

Rice also noted Canadian hog production remains stagnant, if not still declining.

“There have been a lot of producers who have gotten out of the hog production industry because of negative profit margins over the past couple of years, and there continues to be little interest in expanding production at this time,” Rice said. “As a result, weekly hog slaughter capacity in Canada at the processors has been reduced.”

Current slaughter capacity is about 340,000 hogs weekly, down one per cent from last year. Domestic pork demand is slowly declining, as U.S. pork products has been outcompeting Canadian pork, Rice said.

Barrow and gilt exports to the U.S. were down 16 per cent from where they were a year ago at this time.

“We are currently seeing roughly 15,000 live hogs for the U.S. slaughter market being shipped each week and roughly 95,000 isowean piglets for finishing in the U.S. feeder market being shipped on a weekly basis,” Rice said.

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