Sharply lower pork belly stocks continue to prompt headlines in the mainstream media.
An analysis from the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) shows frozen belly inventories were at the lowest Jan. 31 level in nearly 40 years. The lower levels have prompted some concern over bacon availability.
“Frozen belly stocks are very seasonal and tend to begin the year rather large then dwindle into the summer months,” LMIC said in its March 1 analysis.
This could suggest a counter-seasonal pattern in 2017, since the rest of the market is holding somewhat similar to USDA projections coming out of the December Hogs and Pigs Report.
“Inventories of hogs destined for slaughter weighing over 180 lbs. were pegged to be up 2 percent from a year earlier, giving a perspective on what to expect for pork production during the first 90 days of 2017,” LMIC said.
Wholesale belly prices started 2017 valued at $1.16 per hundredweight, up 12 cents from a year ago. Since the USDA released low end-of-year totals in late January, belly prices climbed over 50 cents in a week, and have continued to run high, and stocks decreased sharply in January.
Lean hog prices have showed steady growth over the first two months of the year, after starting 2017 priced around $52/cwt.
“Late January hog carcass prices appreciated $10 from the start of the year, and were up another $10 over the course of February,” LMIC said in the report.
January pork production was up 3 percent from a year ago. Slaughter was up 4 percent from a year ago, while carcass weights were down about a pound.
Beef and pork exports continue to strengthen. Beef tonnage exported was up 12.6 percent in 2016, while pork exports grew by 4.5 percent.
According to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. beef was exported to 123 different countries, with pork sold to 110 countries. The largest increase in beef exports was to South Korea, although Japan remains the largest importer of U.S. beef, followed by South Korea and Mexico.
Mexico remained the largest customer for U.S. pork, followed by Japan, Canada and China.