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Published November 11, 2013, 11:13 AM

Hog and pork trends

China leads in pork production.

By: Daryll E. Ray and Harwood Shaffer, Agweek

China is far and away the largest producer of pork meat and has the largest inventory of live hogs. The U.S. comes in third on both counts.

With regard to international trade, U.S. is the largest importer of live hogs, nearly all of which come from Canada, making Canada the largest exporter of live hogs. It’s the growth in pork exports that is the real success story for the U.S. pork industry. The U.S. percent share of world pork exports has gone from single digits in the early 1990s to more than 30 percent in recent years.

The U.S. swine herd, as measured by beginning year inventory, has declined slightly in the past 32 years from 67.3 million head to 66.4 million head. Before beginning a slow steady increase to current levels, the numbers bottomed out in 1987 at 51 million head.

The number of live pigs imported into the U.S. in 1980 stood at 247,000 head, increasing to 921,000 by 1994. With the North American Free Trade Agreement coming into effect Jan. 1, 1994, the number of pigs imported into the U.S. began to climb in 1995, reaching 10 million head in 2007 before falling back to 5.7 million head in 2012.

The numbers for the U.S. import of pigs and the Canadian export of pigs are virtually identical. Since the formation of the European Union and the treatment of intra-EU shipments of hogs as domestic shipments, the U.S. has become the largest importer of pigs in the world with Russia a distant second since 2006. Canada is the world’s largest exporter of pigs followed by China and the EU

During this period, U.S. hog exports stayed below 300,000 head and in most of those years the numbers were less than 100,000 head, while the Canadian import of pigs never exceeded 14,000.

In 1980, the U.S. slaughtered 97.2 million hogs. After a decline that fell to 80 million head in 1986, the U.S. hog slaughter increased to 113.2 million head in 2012. During this period, the non-U.S. slaughter of hogs increased from 607 million head to 1.1 billion head.

The U.S. production of pork from the hog slaughter grew from 7.5 million metric tons (MMT) to 10.6 MMT, an increase of 40 percent for the period.

China is the world’s largest producer of pork with production growing from 11.3 MMT in 1980 to 52.4 MMT in 2012, an increase of 362 percent. The EU comes in second with pork production of 22.6 MMT. At the present time, Brazil comes in a distant fourth with 3.3 MMT of pork production in 2012, though it has increased its production of pork by 292 percent in the 32 year period.

In 2012, the U.S. was the world’s largest pork exporter at 2.4 MMT followed by the EU at 2.2 MMT, Canada at 1.2 MMT, Brazil at 661 thousand metric tons (TMT), and China at 235 TMT.

Japan is the world’s largest importer of pork growing from 155 TMT in 1980 to 1.3 MMT in 2012. In 2012, Japan was followed by Russia at 1.1 MMT, China at 730 TMT, Mexico at 706 TMT, and South Korea at 502 TMT.

Among the large exporters, the U.S. and China, are also among the world’s largest importers. In 1980, the U.S. was a net importer of 135 TMT of pork. By 2012, the U.S. was a net exporter of 2.1 MMT of pork. China’s net trade moved the other way from being a net exporter of 160 TMT of pork in 1980 to becoming a net importer of 495 TMT of pork in 2012.

For the U.S., pork exports have been a bright spot for hog producers as domestic per-capita pork consumption has declined from 57.3 pounds in 1980 to 45.9 in 2012. The challenges ahead will be the continued rapid increases in pork production in China and competition from the EU and Canada in the export market. If Brazil is able to leverage its large potential in oilseed and feed grain production into pork production, it could also become a threat to the U.S. lead in the export market.

Editor’s note: Ray is the director of the University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center. Schaffer is a research assistant professor at APAC.