KCUR News
10:25 pm
Thu October 29, 2009

China Lifts Import Ban, Missouri Pork Producers Relieved

Kansas City, MO – For the last couple of years, feed prices have been so high that US farmers lost money on almost every pig they raised. China was one of the bright spots for US producers, their third largest, and fastest-growing export market. But H1N1 put a stop to that. Chinese officials said they were worried about catching "SWINE" flu from eating US pork, even though you can't. It was just cover, according to Ron Plain an agricultural economics professor at the University of Missouri.

Plain: This gave them an excuse, from the stand point of trying to protect their hog producers. They had enough pork, and soft prices, an there's an exception for health concerns, and so they grabbed this as an opportunity to keep out some foreign product.

Plain says lifting the ban won't spark a big new market for ribs and chops, but will help move harder to sell parts, like pig's feet. Dave Warner, with the National Pork Producers Council sees huge long-term potential in the Chinese market. He says restoring access to it ends a painful era.

Warner: With the lifting of that ban we are seeing the ending of the effect of the H1N1 virus on our industry.

Still, with more than a billion dollars in losses this year, and no profits likely until well into next, it's going to be a long time before US pork producers put on any weight.