feeder pigs

A drop in pork and beef exports could be attributed to seasonally slow movement during the holidays.

The USDA updated export shipment and sales numbers last week. Pork exports slowed down after robust sales in late November and early December, said economist Len Steiner and associates in their Daily Livestock Report.

The lower numbers could also be an effect of canceled sales.

“Probably the item seen as most negative in the report was the cancellation of 13,258 MT of product designated for China,” Steiner and associates said. “Sales for the new marketing year were 9,741 MT, but total net sales were negative. It is possible that China buyers are waiting for the new trade deal to get signed.”

Other cancellations were seen elsewhere in regions where China is an active buyer.

“Chinese buyers were extremely aggressive in Brazil, purchasing significant volumes of beef and pork in November and December,” Steiner and associates said. “In recent weeks, there have been news reports that Chinese buyers are canceling orders.

“Similarly, the market for lean grinding beef was extremely strong in November in part on speculation of big Chinese buys that were expected to continue into the New Year.”

Despite this, prices remain higher than year-ago levels.

Steiner and associates said pork exports to Mexico continue to increase.

“Combined net sales (current and new marketing year) were almost 20,000 MT,” they said. “This was somewhat predictable given the sharp correction in the value of hams recently. This could be construed as supportive for the ham market in late January and February.”

The prospect of a new trade deal with China could likely keep the market in a holding pattern for a while, Steiner and associates said.

Beef exports continued to run below year-ago numbers in December.

“Export shipments at 12,633 MT were relatively low, even for a holiday shortened week,” they said. “Beef export shipments in December have consistently tracked under year ago levels. There is some hope that the lowering of tariffs in Japan will result in higher exports to that market. However, net sales so far have been underwhelming.”

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.