Early this year, live-hog prices climbed over last year’s levels, spurred on by strong exports and steady domestic demand, according to James Mintert, Kansas State University agricultural economist.

Slaughter hog prices in the Iowa/southern-Minnesota market climbed to an average $55 per hundredweight on a carcass-weight basis, through mid-February. This was nearly 5 percent over 2001 levels for the same period, says Mintert.

Although hog prices slipped in mid-February, largely due to lower wholesale pork values, live-hog prices tend to strengthen from mid-winter through spring, he notes.

“The price strength was particularly impressive in light of the fact that weekly hog slaughter averaged 1.845 million head, down only 0.3 percent compared to last year,” says Mintert. “This year’s pork production ran larger than last year because producers continue to market hogs at heavier weights.”

Part of the boost to hog prices can be attributed to strong pork exports, which rose 17 percent in October and November 2001, over the same period in 2000. Much of that increase went to Japan, the United States’ No. 1 export market

October and November 2001 exports to Japan jumped 43 percent compared to 2000. “Apparently, concerns about bovine spongiform encephalopathy among the Japanese stimulated demand for beef substitutes and U.S. pork was a big beneficiary,” says Mintert.