U.S. Farmers Are Breeding Fewest Hogs in Almost Three Years

U.S. hog farmers are likely to churn out fewer piglets in 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic closed pork-processing plants and sent animal prices tumbling earlier this year.

The number of sows retained for breeding fell 3% to 6.28 million, the lowest since March 2018, U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed Wednesday. Analysts in a Bloomberg survey projected a 1.9% annual drop.

The overall U.S. hog herd fell 0.9% to 77.5 million. Analysts expected 78.4 million.

U.S. Farmers Are Breeding Fewest Hogs in Almost Three Years

While hog-slaughter plants have largely rebounded from virus outbreaks that sickened thousands of workers and led to a steep drop in meat output in April, a backlog of animals persists. Restaurant shutdowns eroded demand for pork, and an expanding herd in China may limit U.S. exports in 2021.

Hog producers probably sent more sows to slaughter amid the murky demand outlook in domestic and export markets, Altin Kalo, an analyst at Steiner Consulting Group in Manchester, New Hampshire, said at an industry webinar. “It underscores the decisions and the issues farmers are having to deal with.”

On Wednesday, wholesale pork rose 1.7% to 69.34 cents a pound, government data showed. The price dropped 43% from a five-year high of $1.2166 on May 11.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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