U.S. pork exports expected to increase 9% in 2024

However, Stuart notes Proposition 12 situation may be more painful than industry realizes.

Ann Hess, Content Director

June 11, 2024

4 Min Read
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With double digit declines in major hog producing nations across Europe and European pork exports dropping 24% last year, Brett Stuart from Global Agri-Trends doesn’t anticipate any real recovery in size this year. In fact, the EU Commission is actually forecasting another export decline this year and expects that number to drop every year for the next 10 years.

“It's all about climate policy and animal welfare and general ‘do-goodery,’ and they're really committed,” Stuart says, citing Ireland’s plans to cull 200,000-plus dairy cows and Denmark’s proposal to cut their livestock emissions by 65%.

“European pork is diminishing in global markets. We're seeing U.S. pork exports to Korea are up 55% year to date thanks to Europe and we're seeing that growth in other markets as well. Regarding European ag policies, the hope is that we go slow enough down the track, we can see the ag effects of their decisions before we go off the cliff behind them.”

As for China, Stuart says the country is going through a massive hog cycle, with the Chinese hog price now around 18.6 RMB, up 28% since May 1.

“18 RMB is not yet spurring imports. I get from my calculations if there are 18 RMB hogs in China, they can bid 45 cents a pound for U.S. pork. If you want to get it up to near that dollar cutout range, they've got to be above 26,” Stuart says. “It's going to be a rollercoaster. Those prices will come
up. I just don't see China really coming into the global pork markets anytime soon.”

U.S. pork exports are up 9% year to date, which Stuart says is his forecast for the year. “Nine percent export growth in the U.S. absorbs 2%. So, production is up half a percent year-to-date, if it grows a little more than that, you can take 2% off of net supplies based on exports,” Stuart says. “We should have a market that feels like we just cut production a percent and a half. Our market does not feel like that.”

Stuart believes the Proposition 12 situation has been more painful than the industry realizes. A meat trader in California recently told him fresh pork sales in California have been cut in half. While Stuart doesn’t think sales are down that much statewide, he notes there are very few pork features or ads running right now in California.

“The preliminary data shows that retail pork prices in California are up 20%. So, you've got 38 million Americans now paying 20% more for pork. The obvious answer is they're going to consume less,” Stuart says. “California typically took about 13% of our net pork supplies. So, a -25% reduction in that puts another 3% into the other 49 states, and maybe that helps explain where we're sitting from a supply perspective. I think it's really a major factor.”

Stuart has his eye on key markets for U.S. pork as well. With Japan's yen still at a 34-year low, the yen has been “really painful for anybody trying to sell pork into Japan.”

“The Japanese just simply are mining their stocks right now,” Stuart says. “They're cutting their inventory and they're importing less. They are going to eat less meat this year in Japan just because of the weakened yen.”

Another market to watch is Mexico, taking 40% of U.S. pork exports, or 10% of U.S. pork production. Their hog prices continue to be significantly above the United States, at the $108- $110 price range. Stuart doesn’t anticipate any sudden changes coming from the recently elected Mexican President Claudia Sheinbaum, who is a climate activist. For example, even though Mexico banned GMO corn, they bought 18 million tons of U.S. corn last year. U.S. corn exports to Mexico year-to-date are up 25%.

Drought in Mexico has been the biggest driver for U.S. corn exports, with no relief in sight. “The reservoirs are down. The 30-day forecast looks terrible for Mexico. That's a tough problem to have, but it is real in Mexico. It's going to affect their corn crop. They're going to keep importing U.S. corn,” Stuart says. “I highly doubt they're going to have any hog expansion this year. I think that the market is very durable for us this year. Our exports are up about 3% from Mexico this year, which is a lot. I think it's going to continue.”

However, Stuart cites there is always an element of political uncertainty.

“If you remember 2018 when Trump put the steel tariffs on Mexico, they came back with pork tariffs on the U.S. Those were pretty short lived, but we did have those 10% and ultimately 20% tariffs out of Mexico on U.S. pork. Definitely some uncertainties as we look forward politically with Mexico. They've got a new president. We may have a new president. I don’t know what'll happen there. I think history would tell you we're pretty good at resolving those issues with Mexico. We don't have prolonged issues.”

About the Author(s)

Ann Hess

Content Director, National Hog Farmer

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