Global pork trade remains in its ascendancy
Pork export volumes for the major pig meat exporters have continued their upward momentum in the first quarter of 2017. Prices have remained firm indicating the ongoing strength of demand from importing countries, led by China and Mexico.
Data for the four main exporters, Brazil, Canada, the EU and the United States, indicate that their combined trade increased by a further 11% in the first quarter of 2017, to 1.4 million tonnes. This follows on from an increase of 23% on the year in Q1 2016. Trade has now been increasing steadily since the summer of 2015. The March 2017 figure of 513,000 tonnes represents a new monthly record and is well above the average of around 375,000 tonnes per month in the 2011 to 2015 period.
The global pork export price, having paused for breath at the end of last year, moved up again in the first quarter of 2017. The figure averaged 10% more than the depressed levels of a year earlier reaching US$2.59 per kg by March. Average export prices for the four countries were very close in March. So far in 2017 there has been no indication of the EU export price moving up to any significant degree in spite of the sharp rise in EU pig prices.
Year-on-year though, EU pork export prices in the first quarter of 2017 were up 11% in US dollars, contrasting with a much smaller rise of 4% for the US. This would suggest that the EU is starting to lose some competitiveness to the other dominant global exporter. Canada and Brazil are somewhat smaller exporters in comparison. Both the US and EU also supply similar markets with the main exception of Mexico.
For the moment, the global price is holding up well in spite of the sharp increase in export availability in the United States, helped by the ongoing high demand from China. This in turn is helping to support the EU market and hence also the UK. The extent to which this can continue remains unclear.
On the demand situation, USDA expect a rise in global pork imports in 2017 led by China. The question remains as to when some recovery in Chinese pork production starts to take place and if it dampens import demand. The Chinese wholesale pork price has fallen some 15% since the beginning of February and in May was down some 20% on a year earlier. This suggests some change in the supply/demand balance is taking place there. On the supply side, a further marked year on year increase in pork exports from the United States is forecast by the USDA, given the sharp growth in output there. If EU export volumes are to be maintained then exporters will have to counteract an even stronger threat from the US.
Leo Colby, Consultant