USDA currently forecasts per capita domestic supply of pork available down 2.9% from a year ago and at almost the same level in 2024. These are the lowest in a decade.
USDA recently lowered its forecasts for pork production for 2023 by 107 million pounds or 0.4%. Current forecast is still for pork production this year to be up 268 million pounds or 1% vs. 2022. Higher slaughter has been offset by lower hog carcass weights so far. But even as overall pork production is up, supply in domestic channels on a per capita basis is forecast down 2.9% for 2023 and at similar levels in 2024 (see chart). USDA is currently forecasting pork exports for 2023 at 6.926 billion pounds, 581 million pounds (+9.2%) higher than a year ago. Lower imports have further reduced domestic availability, with pork imports in 2023 forecast at 1.080 billion pounds, 264 million pounds lower. The swing in trade has meant 845 million fewer pounds available in the domestic market, far more than the increase in production. USDA currently expects marginal production gains for 2024. Production for 2024 is forecast to increase just 71 million pounds (+0.2% y/y). Yes the breeding herd may decline but USDA seems to be arguing that this will be offset by more pigs per litter and expectations for heavier weights for hogs coming to market. Per capita availability for 2023 and 2024 is currently expected to be at the lowest point in a decade.
Global Pork Supplies, Sow Inventories And Production Prospects
As we noted in the first section, the shift in global trade patterns, with exports up and imports down, have had a significant impact on the U.S. domestic market. The pork market is global in nature, with a quarter of all the pork produced in the U.S. going to consumers outside U.S. borders. In addition to looking at what domestic suppliers are doing, it is important to consider what other major pork exporting countries are doing as well. We tried to figure out a way to illustrate the change in the sow inventory for the top four global pork suppliers and changes in supply (see charts).
In the European Union
By far the biggest decline in the sow inventory has taken place in the EU. The block includes some of the biggest global pork producers: Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Poland. The combined sow inventory in the EU at the start of 2023 was estimated at 10.4 million head, 3.6 million head (-26%) lower than the inventory level more than a decade ago (2010). However, pork production in the EU during this period declined from around 22.6 million MT to an estimated 21.6 million MT for 2023, a 4% reduction. Furthermore, because of shifts in domestic consumption and global demand, EU in 2022 exported 4.1 million MT of pork vs. 1.6 million MT in 2010. Exports for 2023 are expected to drop to 3.7 million MT, but that is still over 2 million MT (+124%) higher than in 2010.
In Latin America
Productivity gains have been even more pronounced in countries like Brazil. The sow inventory in Brazil on January 1 , 2023 was estimated at a little over 3 million head, a 4% gain compared to 2010 levels. Pork production during this period increased by 1.27 million MT, a 40% increase, implying a productivity gain of about 36% in the past decade. Last year Brazil exported about 1.3 million MT of pork, compared to 600k MT in 2010. Current forecasts are for exports in 2023 to hit 1.5 million MT. Brazil has been successfully competing with U.S. pork producers in South America, Caribbean and even Mexico. That competition will only heat up as Brazilian feed production expands.
Looking to the End of the Year
The U.S. sow inventory is expected to be lower by the end of the year, maybe as much as 150k head. Since the first week of May, sow slaughter has been about 67k head higher than the same period last year (+9%). Some of this increase is due to announced sow farm closures. But when we look at regional numbers, sow slaughter increases have been broadly distributed. And as we have noted previously, the sow herd will decline both due to more culling as well lower gilt retention. However, keep in mind the implications of productivity gains. In 2019 and 2020 U.S., Canada, Brazil and even EU ramped up production to fill the supply hole created by ASF in China. Now that Chinese supply has recovered, major exporters are looking to balance the decline in Chinse demand with the increase in productivity. This means fewer sows needed, with increasing pressure on inefficient producers.
Steiner Consulting Group produces the National Pork Board newsletter based on information we believe is accurate and reliable. However neither NPB nor Steiner and Company warrants or guarantees the accuracy of or accepts any liability for the data, opinions or recommendations expressed.