While last week was a rough one for hog prices, and consequently for pork producers, there appears to be some hope for a more stable market. Where that market lands has yet to be determined.
Labeling the current Type A H1N1 influenza episode "swine flu" certainly didn't help as last week the pork industry, as well as U.S. government and world health organizations scrambled to spread more detailed, accurate, scientific information about the virus, including changing the name. Meanwhile, several countries blocked U.S. pork exports and even refused to accepts some pork shipments-- both issues that the National Pork Producers Council and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are working hard to correct.
It's equally hard to determine what kind of impact the "swine flu" connection has had or will have on U.S. pork demand. "Our sources indicate that retailers slowed pork orders last week, taking a 'wait-and-see' posture on whether domestic pork demand was indeed damaged," note Steve Meyer and Len Steiner, authors of CME's Daily Livestock Report. Any extended apprehension on the part of retailers to feature pork could put more pressure on prices.
Some analysts are now projecting that pork producers could face loses all through this year and into May 2010, which could be 31 consecutive months of loses.
The report of a possible infection of Type A H1N1 from a person to hogs on an Alberta Canada farm could only extend the market's caution. As Meyer and Steiner point out, "It is difficult to tell just how many pigs are imported from Alberta" into the United States. They cite Idaho, and possibly North Dakota as the entry sites. In 2008, 6,464 feeder pigs and 217,392 market hogs entered the United States from Alberta. So far this year, only 371 Alberta feeder pigs and 54,231 market hogs have been shipped south.