Stunned– would be a good word to describe many pork-industry participants' reaction to the hog market so far this year. Thrilled would be another.

Of course, if  you look ahead to the possible future for corn and soybean meal markets, concern would be a dominant word. That's especially true, now that recent reports are making it apparent that the South American soybean crop won't be adding much relieve this year. 

But for now, it's okay to enjoy and reap the rewards that strong hog and pork markets offer. 

So far, this year, demand for pork increased by 5.3 percent and the demand for live hogs increased by 11.6 percent during the first quarter of 2004, compared with the same period in 2003, according to a national pork checkoff-funded analysis.

“It’s good news for pork producers that the live-hog demand grew nearly 12 percent (in the first quarter),” says Glenn Grimes, University of Missouri agricultural economist. “The demand for live hogs is what determines producers direct profits or losses.  Growth in that demand shows that pork producers were prepared to accept opportunities that were presented.”

Opportunities created by the growth in pork demand are due to several things.  Grimes points out that as much as one-third of the demand growth is due to pork exports of pork. The National Pork Board and U. S. Meat Export Federation are promoting U.S. pork in other countries, specifically Canada and Mexico, which showed the largest increases in U.S. pork purchases in first-quarter 2004.  Japan also purchased more pork during that time, than in first-quarter of 2003. 

However, the single biggest factor boosting demand, says Grimes, is the overall hot interest in high protein diets. Consumer-level demand has grown for both pork and beef. Consumer demand for pork grew 5.3 percent during the first quarter, he notes, and consumer beef demand increased 6.2 percent. 
NPB is planning to keep that momentum going with its new promotion to promote pork as a protein solution for people on low-carbohydrate diets. NPB's long-standing promotions with retailers and restaurants, will not be overlooked, nor will the health professionals. NPB has plans to reach dietitians and physician assistants to capitalize on the current and long-term diet needs.