Pork exports during January exceeded 500 million pounds for only the second month ever. January exports were up 133 million pounds (36.1%) compared to a year ago. China, Japan, Mexico, and Canada each purchased at least 15 million pounds more U.S. pork than in January 2011. January pork imports were up 1.8 million pounds (2.9%) compared to a year ago.

In total, 25.3% of January pork production was exported. That is the third largest monthly export share ever. Pork imports equaled 3.3% of January production.

The number of hogs imported during January was down 5,289 head (1.1%) from 12 months earlier. Feeder pig imports were up 1.4% during January, but other hog imports were down 11.3%.

January domestic retail pork demand was down 5.9% compared to a year earlier; but export demand for U.S. pork was up 33.7%. The combination plus tight margins left packer demand for live hogs up 3.6% compared to January 2011.

The U.S./South Korean free trade agreement went into effect on March 15. The agreement ends Korean tariffs on two-thirds of U.S. farm products with remaining tariffs phased out over the next 10 years.

Hog prices ended this week mostly steady with the previous Friday. The national average negotiated carcass price for direct delivered hogs on the morning report today was $84.54/cwt, down 7 cents from last Friday. Both the western corn belt and Iowa-Minnesota averaged $85.97 this morning. The eastern corn belt had a morning average of $83.81/cwt. Friday's top live hog price at Peoria was $60/cwt. Zumbtota also had a top at $60/cwt. The top for interior Missouri live hogs was $61.50/cwt, up 75 from the previous Friday.

USDA's Thursday afternoon calculated pork cutout value was $82.73/cwt, down $1.26 from the previous Thursday and the lowest since January 12, 2011. Loins, butts and bellies were lower; hams were higher. The western corn belt average hog carcass price is 3.9% above the pork cutout value. Don't be surprised if packers cut back on their kill schedules next week to try to push hog prices back below the cutout value.

Hog slaughter totaled 2.174 million head this week, up 2.0% from the week before and up 1.6% compared to the same week last year. Barrow and gilt carcass weights for the week ending March 3 averaged 206 pounds, unchanged from both the week before and from a year ago. Iowa-Minnesota live weights for barrows and gilts last week averaged 276.3 pounds, up 0.2 pound from the previous week, up 2.0 pounds compared to a year earlier, and above year-ago for the 16th consecutive week.