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International Markets Ripe For South Dakota Pork Producers

Amy Varland

International demand for American pork products is growing. South Dakota pork officials say populations in countries across the globe are expanding and many incomes are increasing – and they say that combination creates opportunities for South Dakota hog farmers. 

South Dakota pork officials say as foreign countries develop and get wealthier their people tend to want to eat more meat. They say populations in countries like China are rising quickly and demand for pork products is up - but due to factors like outdated farming techniques, limited space, and a high pig mortality rate, Chinese pork producers can’t keep up with demand.

South Dakota State University Extension swine expert Dr. Bob Thaler says that means countries like China will be looking to countries like the US to import more pork products – and he says South Dakota hog farmers can help meet that growing demand.

“If every person in China just ate one extra pork burger per year, if they ate an extra quarter pound pork per year, it would take South Dakota’s entire pork production of 3.2 million pigs to make that happen. So when we talk about what’s happening in China - a huge, huge impact on potential markets for South Dakota and the US,” says Thaler.

Dr. Thaler says many pork producers in China still use “back-yard” farming techniques and livestock quality often suffers as a result. He says the Chinese ag industry as a whole has had to evolve rapidly in a short amount of time to keep up with international health standards – essentially leaving sanitation issues in the hands of local farmers.

He says these are among the reasons that many foreign countries prefer to trade with US hog farmers, like those here in South Dakota, because of our high pork production standards and stringent bio-securities.

“In a lot of places in China that doesn’t happen, and it’s very easy to spread diseases, so often times bio-security certainly isn’t where it needs to be at and so their disease status is so much higher than in the United States. It’s not like they have huge outbreaks of everything going on, but their pigs are exposed to a lot more diseases than they are here in the United States,” says Thaler.

Dr. Thaler says right now nearly one quarter of pigs produced in the U.S. are exported to foreign countries.

Executive Director of the South Dakota pork producers Lester Moeller says now is a good time to take advantage of that upward trend.

“We can meet those needs in the future from China. We have great producers here. And I do think we will keep growing our hog industry – we are seeing more growth every year to help meet not only the demands of China but Japan, and Mexico - as a matter of fact Canada is one of our leading importers of pork, so there’s a huge potential in the swine industry,” says Moeller.

Moeller also says South Dakota currently has the necessary infrastructure to support hog farming in the state – and he says there’s room to grow.

“We are very efficient in our state. We have a great environment for pork production. Not only that, it is a great way for somebody to get started in farming. Yes, it costs something to purchase the buildings, on the other hand to buy land is not cheap either, and you can get into an industry, find a fairly good income raising hogs where you don’t need to invest all that money into land, you can bring back your kids to a farming situation if he’s interested in raising livestock. This is a great way to bring somebody back to farm with the older generation,” says Moeller.

Pork is one of China’s preferred protein sources, and Moeller says the rising demand also helps bolster related South Dakota ag businesses like corn and soybean farming.


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