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Canadian pork exports rely on strong demand from Asia

WESTERN PRODUCER — The global pork market is like a herd of cats.

It’s going off in a bunch of different directions, can be extremely different from individual to individual, and defies easy understanding.

Yet Canada’s pork producers must be sensitive to its idiosyncrasies if they hope to thrive in a future that is becoming more and more foreign-based.

“Exports are fundamentally important to our market,” said University of Alberta agricultural economist Ellen Goddard at the Manitoba Swine Seminar.

“What goes on in… other markets of the world is going to drive the economic success of our pork industry.”

That’s because Canada’s pork consumption is stagnant or relatively declining, while foreign pork consumption has been growing.

That’s particularly true of Asia, which favours pork as a meat source and has seen huge increased demand from China in particular. Without that demand, Canada would have trouble moving its mountains of pork.

“In the longer term, given the importance of pork globally… is that going to remain a huge (demand) driver… or are supplies going to adjust in Asia, in a way we will not see export (demand) in the future?” said Goddard.

“How temporary is this huge demand for pork?”

Overall, Goddard sees lots of support for future pork demand from much of the planet. More countries in the world are protein deficient than protein-sufficient, so there shouldn’t be any lagging of total protein demand.

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There’s no question the US swine industry is struggling through a down market cycle. Jason Woodworth, Research Professor at Kansas State University, spoke to attendees at the Annual Four Star Pork Industry Conference held in Muncie, Indiana in September about nutritional strategies for feeding pigs during a down market.

“Unfortunately, the goal may be to lose the least amount of money that you can during this time, and we have to look through that lens at the idea of profitability,” said Dr. Woodworth. “Our reality is that we're going to be on the bottom side of zero, and we’re trying to conserve as much as we can. I’d encourage producers to be as nimble and flexible as possible and to try to take advantage of what's going on in the market as well as what’s happening in your barns.”