Joanna Newman

US PIG prices, which reacted poorly to the quarterly US Department of Agricultures Hogs and Pigs Report, have managed to stage a partial recovery.

The Chicago April lean hogs futures contract had dropped 3 cents to 41.1 cents/lb (£0.56/kg) by 30 March due to worries about over-production, but rebounded to settle on Tuesday, 6 April, at 43.6 cents/lb (£0.59/kg).

Analysts continue to warn that the rate of decline in the breeding herd is too slow, especially as modern techniques have improved productivity.

As reported last week, the national inventory of pigs as at the start of March this year was 59.9m head, a shrinkage of only 1% from a year ago.

Lending support to the market is the decline in grain prices, which has lowered pig producers cost of weight gain.

Soya beans lost 5% this week while maize dropped 7%. Livestock prices traditionally moved in inverse relationship to grains.

In the cash market, the lean value has bounced from 38.5 cents/lb (£0.53/kg) a week ago to 40 cents currently and this is also supporting futures prices.

Consumer demand is expected to enter a seasonal upturn and pork will compete fiercely with beef for market share.

It seems that the Balkan war is not yet impacting US pig values.

But analysts point out that this years pig rally has been helped by hopes of substantial food-aid shipments to Russia and the April lean hog contract is up 34% from its December low.

Clearly, any political threat to the pork shipments could spell bad news for this volatile market.