According to the USDA's latest Livestock, Dairy and Poultry report, U.S. pork exports were up sharply in July, propelled largely by shipments to Asia—China and S. Korea in particular. July exports were 386 million pounds, almost 18 percent higher than a year ago. Evidence of China’s rumored purchases of U.S. pork products finally showed up in U.S. export statistics: China purchased about 44 million pounds of U.S. pork products in July, more than double the July 2010 volume.

Importation of U.S. pork products appears to be part of an effort by the Government of China to supplement domestic pork supplies in order to reduce food price inflation. Lower than expected pork production this year, due to disease outbreaks in 2010 and continued industry exit by small backyard producers, comes at a time when strong economic growth and increasing disposable income have increased pork demand, and pork prices. U.S. exports to China are likely to remain year-over-year higher for the balance of 2011.

Third-quarter U.S. pork exports are expected to be 1.2 billion pounds, more than 26 percent above a year ago. Fourth-quarter exports are forecast at 1.3 billion pounds, an increase of more than 13 percent over fourth quarter 2010. Total exports this year are expected to reach 4.95 billion pounds. Total exports in 2012 are forecast at 5.135 billion pounds, an increase of almost 4 percent. Although still robust, the growth rate of 2012 exports is expected to moderate compared with 2011 as Asian pork supplies rebound from production declines due to disease problems.

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