Despite very strong June wholesale pork prices (+21 percent over June 2013 of the Wholesale Carcass Cutout), U.S. pork exports in June were more than 4 percent higher than a year ago. Exports, summarized in the table below, were more than 414 million pounds, with Mexico the largest foreign destination, followed by Japan and Canada.

These three countries together accounted for almost 66 percent of June pork exports. Anecdotal reports of sluggish pork demand in China\Hong Kong may offer a partial explanation of lower June shipments (-34 percent, year-over-year).

Exports to Russia were over 25 million pounds in June, about 6 percent of total exports. However, in early August, Russia announced a ban on imports of agricultural products from a number of countries, including the United States.

The effects of the ban on the U.S. pork industry are expected to be limited, given recent low levels of exports to Russia due to Russia’s restrictions on imports of pork produced with ractopamine. Demand in other markets remains strong, with growth expected in a number of markets worldwide.

Continued strong foreign demand for U.S. pork products prompted the USDA to increase its third- and fourth-quarter export forecasts to 1.150 billion pounds and 1.290 billion pounds, respectively. For 2014 in total, exports are expected to be 5.07 billion pounds, 1.5 percent above 2013.

Next year, exports are expected to be 5.15 billion pounds, 1.6 percent above 2014. These export forecasts imply that just over 22 percent of U.S. commercial pork production will be exported, both this year, and in 2015, slightly over the 21.5 percent of production exported in 2013.

June pork imports, at about 78 million pounds (+14 percent above June 2013) were higher than expected. Consequently, U.S. pork import forecasts were raised to 245 million pounds in the third quarter of 2014, and 250 million pounds in the fourth quarter, for a 2014 total of 947 million pounds, almost 8 percent above last year. Imports in 2015 are forecast to decline to 920 million pounds as U.S. pork production increases and hog prices decline.

High U.S. pork prices were almost certainly an explanatory factor for strong imports in June. While most imports were of Canadian origin (+0.34 percent compared with June 2013), imports from Denmark, the second largest U.S. source of foreign pork, increased almost 60 percent in June. Both Canada and the EU are banned from shipping pork to Russia, so it is possible that some of their pork may be exported to the United States.