Third-quarter pork exports were 952 million pounds, down 5.4 percent from the same period a year ago. With the exception of Canada, all major U.S. export markets were year-over-year lower in third-quarter 2010. Lower exports are most likely attributable to elevated U.S. pork prices in the July-September period.

The wholesale cutout averaged $88.94 per cwt, more than 56 percent higher than the average wholesale price of $56.94 per cwt a year earlier. With a competitive U.S. dollar vis-à-vis major trading partners, and with economic recovery proceeding in advance of the U.S. economy’s growth rate in most parts of Asia, Mexico, Canada, and Australia, high U.S. prices appear to be a major factor explaining weaker third-quarter foreign purchases of U.S. pork.

The 15 largest foreign destinations for U.S. pork in the third quarter are listed below.

Source: USDA-ERS.

Third quarter U.S. pork imports were 13 percent higher than a year earlier, at more than 237 million pounds. The largest foreign shipments came from Canada (13.2 percent higher compared with a year ago) and from Denmark (0.3 percent lower compared with the same period last year). Lower U.S. production this year was likely an incentive for third-quarter imports.

Live swine imports were down only 2.5 percent in the third quarter, at 1.479 million head, the lowest quarterly decline, in percentage terms, since swine imports turned lower in the second quarter of 2008. Lower imports of segregated early-weaned animals (weighing less than 7 kgs) and slaughter-ready animals offset year-over-year higher imports of feeder pigs (animals weighing between 7 and 23 kgs) and breeding animals.

By Rachel J. Johnson, USDA - ERS