American Pork: Trump's trade war causes swine surplus

The US Department of Agriculture says the country's hog and pig inventories hit its highest level since 1943.

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    Trade disputes and African swine fever have led to US producers having increased pig herds [File: Bloomberg]
    Trade disputes and African swine fever have led to US producers having increased pig herds [File: Bloomberg]

    The world is about to be split in two when it comes to protein.

    Output is piling up in North America, while African swine fever shrinks hog herds in Asia. But, trade disputes are making it hard for the excess supplies of meat to flow into areas where there’s a production gap.

    The latest evidence of this divide came Thursday, when the U.S. government said the nation’s hog herd surged this quarter to the highest since 1943. Inventories jumped 3.6% from last year, beating the 2.6% average estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

    BBG HOG CHART

    American producers are building up the herd in anticipation of increased demand from China -- the deadly pig disease has lowered output in the world’s top pork-consuming nation. But U.S. supplies still face tariffs from the Asian nation, and producers like Brazil and the European Union are seeing the demand gains instead, according to Dennis Smith, senior account executive at Archer Financial Services Inc.

    Meanwhile, China has halted meat imports from Canada after a pork cargo came attached with counterfeit health certificates. That means North America could end up being swamped with supplies.

    Still, the U.S. hog market could eventually find support from increased exports amid the African swine fever outbreak, which has also spread to Vietnam and other parts of Asia, Joe Kerns, president of animal agriculture consulting firm Kerns and Associates in Ames, Iowa, said in an email. Expansion in the U.S. herd is keeping up with increased slaughter capacity, which can also help limit declines in the futures market, he said.

    SOURCE: Bloomberg