U.S. pig meat exports in November 2011 were more than 505 million pounds, almost 25 percent greater than in 2010 and a new monthly volume record, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest report.

Shipments to China made the difference between a “strong” month and a spectacular one, said the USDA, coming in at almost 118 million pounds. This is the most U.S. pork ever shipped to China, and was almost four times greater than U.S. exports to China in November 2010.


Twice in the last few years — 2008 and 2011 — China has imported U.S. pork in quantities sufficient to sharply accelerate U.S pork export volumes, and to move U.S. domestic pork prices higher, for sustained periods. The two Chinese “buys” have each been in response high domestic pork prices, brought about in each instance by disease outbreaks that reduced domestic pork production flows. Domestic pork production shortfalls and interruptions elevated consumer pork prices to a point where China dramatically increased imports of the animal protein most favored by Chinese consumers.

Total U.S. pork exports in 2012 are forecast at 5.1 billion pounds, about the same as in 2011, according to the USDA. Pork imports in November 2011, at 75 million pounds, were slightly ahead of 2010 numbers — 1.7 percent compared with November 2010 — with most of the increase coming from Canada. Imports of live swine from Canada in November ran about 9 percent ahead of 2010. Import of early-weaned pigs accounted for most of the increase. Seasonally strong U.S. prices of early-weaned pigs likely drew more animals out of Canada.