Reduced prospects for U.S. corn production in the 2012–2013 harvest year due to the current drought, with accompanying expectations for higher corn prices, are likely to temper additions to the breeding pig inventory for the remainder of 2012 and into the first half of 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest report.

Total farrowings in 2012 will likely be slightly lower than in 2011. Higher litter rates and average dressed weights — 2012 dressed weights are expected to average about a pound more than in 2011 — are predicted to more than offset lower farrowings, yielding a 2012 commercial pork production of 23.3 billion pounds, almost 2.4 percent higher than 2011 numbers, according to the USDA. In 2013, expectations for slightly higher farrowings and litter rates, together with only a small increase in estimated average dressed weights (given higher expected feed costs) are expected to result in commercial pork production of 23.7 billion pounds, about 1.6 percent more than 2012 numbers.

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U.S. pork exports in May were 448 million pounds, 9.6 percent greater than exports in 2011. While shipments to the top three largest foreign destinations for U.S. pork were mediocre-to-fair in May — Japan (-19 percent), Mexico (+1.3 percent) and Canada (16 percent) — exports to Russia were more than double the volume of May 2011 exports (37.8 million pounds, +103 percent). While data indicate that Russia’s total pork imports through May are off slightly compared with 2011 numbers, U.S. pork appears to be benefiting from trade disputes with Brazil, and also from lower European exports to Russia.

In May, U.S. exports to China of almost 60 million pounds were more than 150 percent higher than in May 2011. Although current Chinese demand for U.S. pork is lower than in the second half of 2011, second-quarter shipments to China have stabilized at a level that significantly bolsters the “bottom line” of total U.S. pork export volumes.