The world pork market is set for positive growth in the second half of 2013 to 2014 because of limited supply growth, a likely increase in pork imports from China and high beef and poultry prices, according to a Rabobank quarterly pork report

However, high stock levels resulting from the disappointing first half of 2013 across the globe and the continuing effect of the economic crisis on demand, mainly in the developed world, will likely limit the price increase. 

"With declining feed costs resulting from bumper harvests, a subdued price increase will support much needed margin recovery across the globe," says Rabobank analyst Albert Vernooij. "However, due to the slowness of both the increase of pig prices and the decline of feed costs, it is questionable whether this will be enough to fully cover losses endured in the first half of 2013."

The Rabobank five-nation finished hog price index rebounded in the second half of Q2 2013, supported by improving conditions across the globe with limited impact of exchange rates. In the European Union, the situation is forecast to remain difficult, with continuing pressure on consumer demand hampering market recovery despite lower supply and rising exports. 

However, prices recovered in China, supported by the outbreak of H7N9 avian influenza in poultry, which resulted in a consumer move to pork. In the United States prices have also recovered, following the loss of key export markets, due to an increase in seasonal demand and lower-than-expected supplies.

The expectations for the second half of 2013 are largely dependent on the prospects for demand as production is forecast to slightly increase. Pork markets are benefiting from relatively high prices for both beef and poultry, but will be negatively influenced by the continuing difficult economic conditions in key markets. Rabobank expects a slight increase in overall global pork consumption in 2H 2013, due in part to the start of the festival season in China. This will support rising prices, but will likely be limited due to the current large stocks across the globe.

Longer term, Rabobank believes the announced acquisition of US-based Smithfield by Chinese Shuanghui International highlights the increased importance of global trade for the pork industry. The limited number of relevant countries, demand growth, grain deficits in Asia, and continuing volatility mean that the Smithfield takeover may be a trigger for future steps. In order to secure supply, other importers may look to follow suit.