Sow numbers continued to increase in 2018 as farmers increased herd sizes in response to high pork
prices. Although average wholesale prices have been below the level of 4,000 won/kg. since October
2018, total inventory has continued to increase.
As total swine inventory continues to rise in 2019, total swine slaughter is projected to increase throughout 2019. Despite efforts by the Korean swine industry to support domestic pork prices by withholding hams from the marketplace, pork production is projected to increase further in 2019, as a reflection of the large swine inventory carried in from 2018. Cumulative swine feed production in 2018 was 3 percent higher than the same period in 2017.
In order to support pork prices, the Korean Swine Association used the check-off program to procure 1,549 MT of ham (equivalent to hams from 103,270 head of swine) during January – February 2019 to mitigate falling pork prices. The association secured 3 billion won (about $3 million) for this project that provides 24,850 won (about $22) per head of swine purchased and held in cold storage, away from the market. Participating companies are obliged to retain the hams in storage for at least 2 months. The association hopes to stabilize the market price by directing into cold storage about 3.4 percent of the hams that were produced during the first two months of 2019.
The cause for the drop in hog prices can be attributed to the following factors:
- Increased inventory
- Increased pork imports due to low export prices from major trading partners
- Lower demand in the restaurant business caused by shorter mandatory work hours (52 hours per week) that have virtually erased after-work party customers
- High pork stocks
- Increasing popularity of restaurants selling iberico pork from Spain, and
- Increased use of price-competitive imported pork for producing both home meal replacement (HMR) dishes and processed meat products
The increased supply of domestic pork in 2018 enhanced the price competitiveness of Korean pork compared to Hanwoo beef and other proteins in 2018. The price ratio of domestic chilled pork bellies against U.S. frozen beef dropped from 1.22 to 1.16, meaning that domestic pork has become more competitive against U.S. frozen beef but is still 16 percent higher. As domestic pork production expands, prices will soften in 2019. A notable trend in pork consumption has been generated by the demographic change in Korea. The number of single-person households substantially exceeds the traditional 3-4 member households, which tend to prepare food at home. Single-person households tend to seek convenience in preparing their food and do not want to prepare foods that would result in leftovers. As a result, this change in demographics has increased the demand for Home Meal Replacement (HMR) dishes. TV dinner style lunch boxes have become increasingly popular among these single-person households. However, as beef is not a highly price competitive ingredient for HMR, the use of pork, especially processed pork, has increased in this market.
Despite increased domestic production, pork imports soared in 2018. The increased imports mainly came from cuts used for processed meat products. The price of cuts like picnics and hams that are used for producing processed meat products dropped significantly in 2018. Some meat processors built up a year’s worth of inventory in order to procure additional meat when international market pricing was especially favorable. This pattern was in effect throughout 2018, as domestic meat processors added to their warehouse stock of frozen hams and picnics, the average import price of which dropped from $4,373/MT in 2017 to $3,385/MT in 2018. Korea so far has suspended imports from China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Hungary and Belgium due to ASF.
Friday March 8, 2019/ GAIN-USDA/ United States.