AMES, Iowa – Unfounded concerns that pork products may be tied to the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza A variant are beginning to be reflected in the marketplace, according to John Lawrence, an Iowa State University Extension economist and director of ISU’s Beef Center.
Lawrence said the market price of hogs has declined about $4.60 per hundredweight since Friday, April 24. The decline comes at a time of year when hog prices usually rise and continue to increase into the summer. The $4.60 decline represents a collective loss in value of about $175 million for Iowa pork producers.
The concern about pork products is attributed to the identification of the new influenza variant as a “swine flu,” even though it has not been found in swine. Lawrence said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Agriculture both have said that there currently is no evidence of the disease in the nation’s swine supply, and the World Health Organization has announced that it will stop using the “swine flu” name and will stick with the scientific name, H1N1 influenza A, to avoid misleading consumers.
U.S. consumers eat about 80 percent of the pork produced in this country, with the remaining 20 percent going to export markets, Lawrence said. Exports were expected to be down slightly this year because of the decline in the world economy. Eight countries, including Russia and China, have now banned imports of U.S. pork products. Lawrence said those bans may be based in part on a desire to protect their own pork producers from U.S. competition, but that U.S. trade negotiators are working to get the bans lifted.
Lawrence said biosecurity is a high priority for all Iowa pork producers and the outbreak will reinforce the awareness of tactics needed to ensure the safety of U.S. products. In the short term, Lawrence said the export of pork products may decline and that may lead to lower prices in the United States for pork products and for beef and chicken, if they need to compete with the lower pork prices.