Global prices stabilised at the end of 2017

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Despite falling from the highest levels since 2014 earlier in the year, global pork prices stabilised in the latter quarter of 2017.

Based on the four largest global pork exporters (the EU, US, Canada and Brazil), the value of pork exported averaged $2.64/kg during Q4. This was virtually on par with year earlier levels.

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In contrast to previous months, supply and demand for pig meat seems to have been more balanced at the end of 2017. Global export volumes, which had been trailing behind year earlier levels as Chinese demand fell back, grew 2% on the year during Q4. This brought global pork exports to 1.43 million tonnes during the quarter, a record high for the period. A 12% (+27,000 tonnes) year-on-year increase in shipments to Japan during Q4 was key to driving the overall increase in trade. This reflects declining production in the country, coupled to some increase in demand and high domestic prices which make imported product more competitive. However, Japanese consumption and production are expected to remain flat this year, so further import growth might not be expected on this market.

Looking forwards, further downward pressure on global pork prices is likely. Increased production from the US, Canada and Brazil is anticipated this year, and the EU should also have greater supply availability. Unless demand can pick up, the global markets risk being oversupplied, resulting in downward price pressure. EU average pork prices remain the highest of the global exporters; at $2.73/kg in Q4, prices were 3% above the global average, and so price pressure may particularly be felt here for product to remain competitive. However, developments in demand from China will be key. There are some expectations Chinese demand for imported pork could pick up again this year, which could provide a welcome outlet for some of the additional global supplies. Nonetheless, with all the key exporters supplying this market, competition will likely be intense.

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Bethan Wilkins, Analyst

bethan.wilkins@ahdb.org.uk, 024 7647 8757