U.S. pork exports during February totaled 455.323 million pounds, up 17.5% from a year ago. Japan purchased slightly less pork than a year ago, but each of our other major foreign buyers purchased more U.S. pork than in February 2011. During the first two months of 2012, pork exports were up 26.5% compared to January-February 2011. February pork imports totaled 67.539 million pounds, up 11.8% from a year ago. All of the net increase came from Canada. Pork imports during the first two months of this year were up 7.2% from last year.

USDA's April price and production update had a lower barrow and gilt price forecast for 2012. USDA is now predicting hog prices will average somewhere around $63.50/cwt of live weight this year. That is $1.50 below their March forecast and $2.61 below last year's record average price.

USDA raised their prediction of 2012 pork production by 30 million pounds, increased expected pork imports by 20 million pounds, and raised their forecast of pork exports by 100 million pounds. That combination leaves 50 million pounds less pork on the U.S. market. USDA raised their estimate of competing meat supply, which appears to be the reason for the lower hog price forecast.

Hog prices ended this week generally steady to lower from the previous week. The national average negotiated carcass price for direct delivered hogs on the morning report today was $79.67/cwt, down $1.84 from last Friday. The eastern corn belt averaged $79.66/cwt this morning. Neither the western corn belt nor Iowa-Minnesota had enough hog sales this morning for a price quote. Peoria and Zumbrota each had a top of $54/cwt today. The top for interior Missouri live hogs was $59.75/cwt, up 75 cents from the previous Friday.

Following 7 weeks of decline, the pork cutout value was higher this week. USDA's Thursday afternoon calculated cutout value was $78.82/cwt, up 67 cents from the previous Thursday. Hams were lower this week. Bellies, butts and loins were higher. Packer margins remain tight. The national average hog carcass price this morning is 1.1% above the pork cutout value.

Hog slaughter totaled 2.044 million head this week, down 3.8% from the week before, but up 0.8% compared to the same week last year. Barrow and gilt carcass weights for the week ending March 31 averaged 206 pounds, unchanged from the week before and unchanged from a year ago. The average barrow and gilt live weight in Iowa-Minnesota last week was 276.1 pounds, down 1.2 pounds from a week earlier, up 3.0 pounds from a year ago, and above a year earlier for the 20th consecutive week.