Prices are soft but the hog supply chain is working well, says the general manager of the Western Hog Exchange.
The typical mid-March price rally hasn’t occurred but COVID-19 has roiled all markets, said Brent Bushell.
“It’s no different than the stock markets, and everything else. It’s the uncertainty,” said Bushell.
“I think people are going to be eating a whole bunch of pork. There’s just a lot of uncertainty in the market out there.”
That uncertainty has reduced forward contracting but pork is still moving through the value chain as it should be.
The sector already has well-established and very strong biosecurity protocols in place, Bushell noted.
“Unless it’s a very large production facility, the average producer will be operating in a barn with one to three people. They’re not in close proximity, and there are all the biosecurity things they do anyway.”
It’s more challenging for assembly barns and processors, but they’ve done a very good job so far, said Bushell.
There is still a large hole in the global herd, since China lost half of its hogs to African swine fever last year.
“There isn’t enough pork in the rest of the world to fill that hole, but China has looked at other alternatives,” he said.
The U.S. ramped up hog production to fill that gap and actually has an oversupply of hogs at the moment. That affects prices here, he said.
It will be critical to keep packing plants open as hogs need to be sent to slaughter when they hit market weight in order to make room in barns.
“That would be the biggest challenge for the hog industry,” said Bushell.