At the World Pork Expo, there was lots of opportunity to talk trade and domestic pork production, as well as the release of April export numbers. Despite current trade headwinds, and as more poultry, beef and pork protein enters the marketplace, can demand keep up with supplies?
Federally inspected meat production is up 3.7% so far this year, says Dustin Baker, deputy director, economics and domestic production for the National Pork Producers Council. But demand for U.S. continues to be strong domestically and internationally.
Looking at the latest export numbers, from January through April, pork exports were up 4.3% on volume and 9% in value from a year ago—a positive position to be in going into larger supplies. While those numbers do not reflect recent tariff impacts from China or Mexico, it shows the positive direction and excellent demand for U.S. pork internationally, Baker says.
In 2017, U.S. pork saw record export volume, nearly 2.45 million metric tons, and the second highest year on record in terms of value at $6.5 billion.
Cold storage, one of the ways to understand the strength of demand, has been increasing but is still about even with historical averages over the last five years. Also, the restaurant performance index remains strong, driven by a strong overall economy.
People consume a lot of bacon, but bellies haven't really been the driver of the overall pork carcass cut-out like they were a year ago, representing a 21% drop from 2017. “We typically see a peak come the summer months, and so I'm hopeful that we haven't quite hit that peak yet,” Baker says. “This is the perfect time to be filling your freezers with bacon.”
Still Baker is bullish on pork, both domestically and internationally.
“The bottom line is that American pork producers are the best at what they do,” Baker said. “Given a level playing field and access to markets, we cannot compete anyone if we are allowed to do so. So despite the headwinds our industry faces, I remain very optimistic about the future of our industry.”
Listen above to Baker’s predictions for the fall and first quarter 2019 pork prices and supply.