According to the Rabobank Pork first quarter report, the price outlook for the global pork market for the remainder of Q1 and into Q2 2014 is steady.
In combination with lower feed costs, this will be positive for farmers' margins, despite the unknown impact of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in the U.S., Canadian and Mexican markets.
"The main wildcard in the global market this quarter is the effect of PEDv outbreaks in North America and what this means to pork production in and export from this region this year," said Rabobank analyst Albert Vernooij. "Rabobank expects the impact in the U.S. to be more severe than forecast by the U.S.DA and believes it will likely hamper U.S. pork production growth into 2014. This might also pressure U.S. export volumes, presenting opportunities for the other exporters."
PEDv outbreaks in Central and Northwest Mexico began around the third quarter of 2013 and in the week of Jan. 20, 2014, the first official cases of PEDv were confirmed in Canada's main pork production region, Manitoba. Given Canada's position as the third largest exporter of pork, behind the U.S. and EU, PEDv will limit the amount of pork available to the global trade in the next 12 to 18 months, Rabobank expects.
By comparison, the Mexican pork industry remains optimistic, provided PEDv is satisfactorily controlled. This year, the Mexican government launched a new programme to increase the swine inventory through genetic improvements and improve pork meat quality to increase exports.
Related: Take Educated Approach to Limiting PEDV Spread
Elsewhere, pork imports in Japan dropped 10.9% January-November mainly due to the depreciation of the Yen while the Korean pork market has returned to the situation before the devastating swine fever outbreak, which started in April 2009.
Lower imports combined with stabilising domestic production in the second half of 2013 has supported price recovery in Korea which will likely continue in 2014 due to the 5.8% year-over-year drop in the sow inventory in Q3 2013, Rabobank says.
In the EU, Rabobank expects a positive first half in 2014. Lower feed costs and continued elevated price levels will support the recovery of farmers' margins after the lows experienced in the first half of 2013. This is due to a slightly increased EU pork production supported by continually strong productivity growth, and stable to slightly higher consumption and exports. The latter might perform even better than expected if the impact of PEDv in the U.S. is larger than currently estimated.
In the long term, the main question will be how farmers globally will react to the lower feed costs and the scale of industry expansion that will follow.
In light of the margin pressure most farmers have endured in recent years, Rabobank expects global pork production growth to be measured and in line with demand. At the same time, steadily growing production in China and Russia and strengthening will limit export growth potential for traditional suppliers.