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Pork exports seen declining this year

(Resource News International) –– Exports of fresh, chilled and frozen pork products from Canada are expected to decline during 2008 compared to 2007, while shipments of Canadian weanlings and feeder pigs increase, according to the Canadian Pork Council.

“We’ve seen a pretty good pace to shipments of fresh, chilled and frozen pork to all destinations during the first quarter of 2008, but that is not going to last,” said Martin Rice, the council’s executive director.

Sales of Canadian pork to the end of March 2008 totalled 261,000 tonnes, up about two per cent from 256,000 during the same time frame in 2007, he said.

“I don’t think the pace that we have seen during the first quarter will continue through the remainder of the year, as there will be fewer hogs to slaughter and the amount of weanling and feeder pig shipments to the U.S. continues to grow,” Rice said, noting the economics of finishing pigs in Canada are no longer feasible.

Canadian exports of fresh, chilled and frozen pork to all destinations during 2008 were forecast by Rice to be down five per cent to around 950,000 tonnes, compared to 997,000 during 2007.

Of the fresh, chilled and frozen pork sold by Canada during 2007, the U.S. was the main buyer, Rice said. Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan were also key recipients of Canadian pork products.

Among importing countries, sales to Japan were declining, particularly as consumers in that country returned to North American beef, Rice said.

“There had been a downturn in beef consumption in Japan with the outbreak of BSE, and a shift to pork,” Rice said. “However, we are now seeing a shift back.”

Rice projected Canada’s weanling and feeder pig shipments to the U.S. during calendar 2008 to be above seven million head, up from 6.7 million shipped to the U.S. during 2007.

With Canada shipping so many weanling and feeder pigs to the U.S., imports of U.S. fresh, chilled and frozen pork products back into Canada have been steadily rising and should be up again during 2008, he said.

During 2007, the U.S. shipped 162,000 tonnes of pork products into Canada.

“When you compare that with U.S. pork imports in 2000 of 61,000 tonnes and 12,000 in 1991, there is a clear picture developing,” Rice said.

Much of Canada’s pork movement into the U.S. was for the U.S. processing industry, while shipments of U.S. pork into Canada were mainly for the retail sector, Rice said.

“Some of these importers like Costco are increasing their sales in Canada as a seller of pork, so it has been a growing business,” Rice said, adding that chains such as Costco only import U.S. pork products and don’t buy Canadian pork to sell in their retail outlets.

Hog slaughter capacity in Canada as of November 2007 totalled around 455,000 head per week, Rice said. Capacity in November 2006 was 500,000 head a week.

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