Summary - Record inventories at the start of 1996 declined through the year as high grain prices took a toll. Despite this, consumption has continued to increase, leading to further growth in trade. Prospects for 1997 are strong, as feed costs are forecast to fall while pork prices remain strong. An outbreak of hog cholera in the EU has introduced some uncertainty into the picture.
Hog inventories for selected countries in 1996 were at a record level of 785.5 million head, an increase of 3 percent over 1995. High grain prices throughout most of 1996 caused a slight contraction in beginning inventories in 1997, which totaled 777.3 million head, a reduction of 1 percent. Contraction in hog inventories was experienced throughout most of the world's largest hog producing areas: Poland (13 percent), Russia (12 percent), U.S. (4 percent), and Canada (1 percent). However, these reductions were nearly offset by increases in the EU (2 percent) and Taiwan (2 percent). Prospects for 1998 appear to be good, as grain prices are expected to remain near their normal seasonal averages.
Pork consumption for selected countries in 1996 increased 5 percent to a record 78.1 million tons, mainly due to a switch from beef to pork as a result of the BSE situation in the EU. However, the largest increases in pork consumption did not come from the EU, which increased 2 percent, but from China, where pork consumption increased by 3.5 million tons or 10 percent. Large increases in pork consumption were also seen in the Philippines (9 percent), Taiwan (6 percent), Poland (5 percent), and Korea (4 percent). Some declines were seen in Mexico (7 percent), the United States (5 percent), Russia (4 percent), and Canada (3 percent). Pork consumption in 1997 is forecast to reach another record level of 79.4 million tons, an increase of 2 percent from 1996.
Pork exports for selected countries continued to increase in 1996, totaling 2.5 million tons, an increase of 8 percent over 1995. Half of the increase came from the United States, which boosted its pork exports 20 percent. Poland and China also increased their pork exports substantially. Slight reductions were seen in pork exports by Taiwan (3 percent) and the EU's pork exports to third countries (2 percent). Rapidly growing pork consumption in Taiwan adversely affected that country's ability to continue expanding pork exports. The EU's reduction in third country pork exports was mainly due higher internal prices that kept more pork on the domestic market. Prospects for 1997 pork exports appear good as an increase of 3 percent is forecast, keyed mostly to significant increases by the United States, the EU, and Canada.
U.S. inventories of pigs and hogs continued to decline during 1996 as high prices for feed grains caused producers to reduce their herds. With feed grain prices forecast to decline, inventories are expected to rebound during 1997, finishing the year 8 percent higher than in 1996. Live hog prices, after climbing into the low 50's (dollars/cwt.) during 1996, are forecast to average in the mid 50's during 1997.
Live hog imports from Canada jumped dramatically during 1996. Several factors account for the increase, including strong U.S. prices and underutilized processing capacity in the United States. Weakening ties between Canadian hog producers and their marketing boards, along with a decline in the countervailing duty also helped to account for the change. Improved conditions in Mexico led to a partial recovery in U.S. live hog exports, as total exports rose from 16,000 head in 1995 to nearly 58,000. This number is forecast to decline in 1997 as an increasing number of hogs are retained for the U.S. market.
Pork production dropped 4 percent in 1996. Pork production in 1997 is forecast to be little changed from 1996 levels. Exports of pork performed extremely well, defying tight domestic supplies and high prices to post an increase of 23.3 percent by volume for 1996. A further jump of 16.7 percent is forecast for 1997. Canned and frozen pork demonstrated the most rapid growth in sales, as canned pork rang up a 50 percent increase in volume and 38 percent increase in value, while frozen pork gained 30 percent in volume and 43 percent in value. By comparison, exports of fresh and chilled pork lagged, with only a 7.4 percent increase in volume, as reduced exports to Russia and Mexico nearly offset growing sales to Japan and Canada. As a result, the total value of frozen pork exports nearly matched fresh/chilled exports, at $453 million for frozen and $462 million for fresh/chilled. The increase share of frozen pork in U.S. sales can be directly attributed to the effects of Japan's safeguard mechanism.
Japan continues to be the number one market for the United States, accounting for over 58 percent of all U.S. exports by volume and 74 percent by value. Sales to Japan surged in 1996 immediately following the reduction of the gate price in April, 1996. The sudden jump in Japanese imports from all sources triggered Japan's import safeguard in the first quarter of the Japanese fiscal year (JFY), slowing the pace of imports for the rest of the year. (The Japanese fiscal year runs from April to March). U.S. exports to this market ended the year up by 35 percent in volume and 26 percent in value, reflecting the increased presence of frozen pork in the export mix. This is a turnaround from previous years, when exports of fresh/chilled pork outperformed frozen.
Canada's increased focus on export markets has created new opportunities in that country for U.S. exporters. As a result, Canada jumped ahead of Russia and Mexico to become the second largest market for the United States. Meanwhile, exports to Mexico increased only slightly, leaving them well below pre-peso crisis levels. This is expected to change during 1997 as consumer purchasing power continues to gain. Exports to Russia and Korea have fallen dramatically, largely as a result of high prices.
U.S. pork imports declined by 7 percent in volume, while increasing by 6 percent in value. The jump in unit values is explained by a shift in the product mix: while other categories of pork experienced declining imports, the more expensive fresh/chilled/frozen pork held even in volume, as rising domestic prices caused the value to jump. Market shares have also continued to shift, as Canada continues to increase its share of the U.S. market at the expense of the European Union. Canada's market share jumped from 71.5 percent in 1995 to 73.9 percent in 1996, while the EU dropped from 25.4 down to 23.3 on a volume basis.
The tremendous expansion in the Canadian hog inventory of previous years was hampered in 1996 by high feed costs, instilling a cautionary mood in the industry. Beginning hog inventory, growing at an average rate of 5 percent per year since 1990, fell fractionally in 1997 to 12.0 million head, just below its 1996 record level of 12.1 million head. Producer farrowing intentions in late 1996 showed that some confidence had returned as more sows would be bred in 1997 over 1996. Although fewer hog marketings are expected during the first two quarters of this year, economic conditions are forecast to improve due to lower feed costs. As a result, a modest increase is forecast in Canada's total output of market hogs in 1997.
Canadian packers continue to focus on the Asian market, particularly Japan and increasingly Korea, by preparing pork cuts specific to their customers' needs. This has resulted in shortfalls in domestic supplies, which was increasingly met by imports of product from the United States. Pork imports from the United States totaled 29,677 tons in 1996, a 70 percent increase over 1995. This trend is expected to continue as Canada attempts to increase its share of the Asian market. Total Canadian pork exports in 1996 remained virtually unchanged from 1995 at 355,000 tons. Pork exports in 1997 are forecast to increase slightly to 360,000 tons. The most significant change within the Canadian export complex was the shift away from the U.S. market towards the Asian markets. Canadian pork exports to the United States dropped 3 percent, while pork exports to Japan, Russia, and Korea grew 12 percent, 135 percent, and 178 percent, respectively.
Canadian live hog exports in 1996 increased 60 percent over 1995, reaching a record 2.8 million head. Canadian producers have seen a clear advantage in marketing their hogs in the United States for three reasons: (1) the U.S. dollar has maintained its strength against the Canadian dollar over the last few years, (2) the reduction in the U.S. countervailing duty over the last several years to its most recent level of 1.06 Canadian cents/kg; and (3) recent changes in Canadian hog marketing boards also made it easier for producers to sell their hogs where they choose. The large exodus of live hogs has caused some consternation among Canadian packers, who have found it hard to compete against their U.S. counterparts. One major Canadian packer has announced the closure of the hog slaughter operation at its Ontario plant and the shifting of production to its expanding facilities in Manitoba. In addition, two major Alberta hog packers have reportedly offered price premiums in an attempt to attract more hogs to their plants. The current forecast is for Canada to export 2.5 million hogs in 1997, assuming exchange rates remain stable.
Mexican hog inventories declined again in 1996 as high grain prices prompted producers to further reduce their herds. Beginning inventory in 1997 was 10.2 million head, a reduction of 8 percent from 1996. A 2 percent reduction is forecast in 1998 as grain prices and market conditions moderate. A slight increase is forecast in the 1997 Mexican pig crop as higher efficiencies and pigs/litter saved are expected.
Economic conditions in Mexico appear to be stabilizing as pork imports in 1996 remained unchanged from 1995 at 30,000 tons. However, the United States market share has increased significantly since implementation of the NAFTA agreement in 1994. NAFTA has squeezed all competitors out of the Mexican pork market except the United States and Canada. The United States has seen the largest increase in market share, increasing from 77 percent in 1994 to approximately 97 percent in 1996 (based on Mexican import data through September 1996). Canada, on the other hand, has not faired as well, losing market share each year, from 19 percent in 1994 to 3 percent in 1996 (through September 1996). Mexican pork imports are forecast to increase 17 percent in 1997 due to continued improvement in economic conditions. Since the peso devaluation in 1994, Mexico has become the fourth largest importer of U.S. pork, dropping from number two. However, Mexican pork imports from the United States rose 7 percent in 1996, reaching 22,526 tons, product weight equivalent. Of this amount, the largest gains were seen in fresh chilled carcasses, bacon, and fresh, boneless pork. As imports are forecast to increase in 1997, it is expected that increases will also occur in these products.
Pork production continues to fall in Japan, reflecting an aging farm population, diminishing returns relative to other pursuits, and a slowly eroding base of farm land. Total production dropped from 1.32 million tons in 1995 down to 1.26 million tons in 1996, a decline of roughly 4.3 percent. A further decline of 39,000 tons is forecast for 1997. Consumption increased by 1 percent (23,000 tons), mirroring the long-term trend for this country. A slight drop in consumption is forecast for 1997, as recent issues such as the unexplained E. coli outbreaks in Japan have affected meat consumption in general. The combination of slowly growing consumption, declining production and a strong competitive advantage for the United States, have combined to make Japan a strong market for pork in the near future.
Japan's safeguard mechanism caused even more serious dislocations in trade in 1996 than it did in 1995. In the three months prior to the reduction of the gate price in April, Japanese importers continued to purchase pork at constant levels. Much of the frozen product was placed in bonded warehouses however, waiting to clear customs until after the gate price had been reduced. The result was a flood of imports during April that boosted import levels high enough to trigger the safeguard after only one quarter. The increased gate price established under the safeguard mechanism went into effect on July 1, drastically reducing imports of frozen product. Nonetheless, total imports for the year were sufficient to trigger the annual safeguard, which means that the higher gate price will remain in effect for the first quarter of the next Japanese fiscal year, i.e., until July, 1997.
Japan's safeguard mechanism is having a roller coaster effect on Japan's pork trade, with huge import volumes for the fist and perhaps second quarter, followed byu a precipitous drop in the remainder of the JFY. After two years, the first quarter safeguard level has increased, going from 147,000 tons in 95/96 to 152,000 in 96/97, and then jumping to 254,000 in 97/98. The sudden jump reflects the impact on the three-year average of the huge import quantity in the first quarter of JFY 96/97. Though increases are apparent for the third and fourth quarter trigger levels, these mostly reflect the impact of first quarter increases on the cumulative total. Increases in third and fourth quarter trigger levels of the magnitude seen in the first and second quarters will not occur until third quarter imports can take place under the reduced gate price.
When the safeguard comes down in July (the start of the second quarter, JFY), the gate price will fall from 728.19 yen/kg. to 586.76 yen/kg. The cumulative trigger amount at that point will be 410,000 metric tons. Analysts disagree on whether the safeguard will be triggered again in the first quarter after the gate price is reduced. Since the trigger amount is calculated on a cumulative basis, much will depend on the quantity imported during the first quarter of the JFY, while the safeguard is still in place. If this quantity is sufficiently small, it may prove logistically difficult to import enough pork in the second quarter JFY to trigger the safeguard. If it is not triggered in the second quarter, exporters will be assured of at least six months of exports under the lower gate price.
Market shares continued to shift during 1996, as the largest exporter, Taiwan, lost market share in both fresh and frozen pork, while Denmark's share of frozen imports continued to dwindle. The United States was the biggest winner in absolute terms, with market share of frozen product climbing from 7.8 percent to nearly 13 percent of Japan's imports. U.S. market share for fresh pork held steady at slightly under 46 percent. The United States will face a more difficult year in 1997, as the high dollar and high domestic prices will undermine U.S. competitiveness. Despite this, U.S. exports to Japan are likely to grow, though at a slower rate than in 1996. Canada also did well, particularly in the fresh/chilled market, increasing exports by nearly 50 percent, giving them a 4 percent market share. A number of other exporters benefitted from the boom in frozen pork imports, most notably Korea and Mexico.
Hog inventories set a new record high in 1996, reaching over 10.6 million head by the end of the year--an increase of slightly less than 2 percent, but well below the 4 percent increase in 1995. Numbers are forecast to fall slightly during 1997. The decline in growth has been attributed to a disease that is reducing the survival rate among piglets. Although breeding stocks are still on the rise, a number of small producers have indicated that they will cut their hog operations. This trend may be accelerated by Taiwan's hog cholera eradication program, which is likely to put smaller, less competitive farms at an even greater disadvantage.
Hog prices in Taiwan fluctuated wildly as a result of Japan's safeguard mechanism. In the period prior to July, when the safeguard went into effect, packers scrambled to export as much product as possible. Competitive bidding among packers drove hog prices up as high as 7,000 NTD/100 kg. Once the safeguard went into effect, prices plummeted, falling to as low as 4,000 NTD/100kg before recovering. By way of comparison, hog production costs in Taiwan are estimated at between 4,200 and 4,700 NTD. Packers have since taken advantage of the low prices to accumulate increased stocks, in anticipation of a better year in 1997. On average, domestic prices remain well above the cost of production, ensuring that hog numbers will continue to grow in the near future.
Domestic pork production continued to expand during 1996, jumping by 3 percent, though only marginal growth is forecast for 1997, reflecting a lower survival rate among piglets. After taking a slight dip in 1995, consumption grew more rapidly than production in 1996, and is forecast to continue growing in 1997. This has begun to undermine Taiwan's ability to expand exports by limiting available supplies, with exports estimated to have declined by 4 percent during 1996. Nearly the entire decline came out of sales to Hong Kong, as sales to Japan continued to grow. Total exports are forecast to decline even further during 1997.
Taiwan continued to be the primary supplier of pork to Japan, which absorbed over 99 percent of Taiwan's exports in 1996. This amounts to roughly 30 percent of Taiwan's total production. Despite this, Taiwan's exports to Japan have not kept pace with import demand: their share of this market has eroded over the past several years, as the United States and Canada have increased their presence. Short domestic supplies, combined with the powerful influence of the Japanese safeguard help to explain the import picture. Imports, though still small and heavily regulated, jumped from 5,000 MT in 1995 to 12,000 MT in 1996. The bulk of these imports entered during the early months of 1996, when the decline in Japan's gate price caused Taiwanese pork prices to skyrocket in anticipation of increased exports. As soon as the snapback went into effect in Japan, imports fell sharply. Taiwan's primary competitor in Japan, the United States, is also the primary supplier of Taiwan's pork imports. Imports are forecast to climb an additional 25 percent in 1997, as Taiwanese pork processors continue to service the Japanese market at the expense of the domestic market.
Korean hog inventories declined slightly during 1996 as record slaughter levels out paced a record high pig crop. A further small decline is forecast for 1997. Producers are reducing their inventories in anticipation of increased competition from imports, as the frozen pork market is liberalized in July, 1997. The Korean government remains convinced that the pork sector can become internationally competitive, and inventories are expected to stabilize by the end of 1997.
Pork production hit an all-time high at 865,000 MT in 1996, with yet another record year forecast for 1997. Consumption grew faster than originally projected, as the BSE crisis led some consumers to switch from beef to pork. Also helping to boost consumption was an economic slowdown that caused consumers to switch more to pork, positive press coverage for pork vs. beef, and the rising popularity of a Chinese dish called tangsooyuk', which uses pork as its primary ingredient.
Despite record slaughter levels, domestic producers were unable to meet the unexpected surge in demand, necessitating increased imports. Originally expected to fall, imports actually increased in 1996. Korean officials raised the import quota several times during the year, as domestic producers were unable to meet demand at acceptable prices. Imports are forecast to rise by 39 percent in 1997, as a result of the liberalization of the frozen pork market in July, 1997.
During 1996, the United States lost market share in frozen pork to Danish and Canadian packers. The Korean market is dominated by demand for single-rib pork bellies. Strong domestic demand in the United States kept more pork bellies at home than in 1995. This, combined with the additional cost U.S. packers incur in manufacturing the single-rib product, kept U.S. exports to this market weak during 1996.
The tendency of Korean buyers to favor bellies over loins has created a trade pattern wherein bellies are imported from Europe and Canada, while loins are exported to Japan. Korean pork exports expanded by over 155 percent, jumping from 18,000 MT in 1995 to 46,000 MT in 1996, with growth for 1997 forecast at over 52 percent. The driving force behind this growth is the reduction of Japan's gate price. High U.S. prices and tight supplies in Taiwan will put Korea in a position to increase exports in 1997.
Originally forecast to increase, domestic consumption of pork fell by nearly 13 percent in 1996, largely as a result of the BSE crisis. While in most markets this crisis has favored pork by causing consumers to switch from beef, in Hong Kong consumer fears spilled over to affect all red meats. The decline in pork imports most affected China, the primary supplier to this market. A partial recovery is forecast for 1997 as consumer confidence returns. The decline came almost exclusively at the expense of imported pork, as slaughter hog imports from China remained remarkably stable.
China is, oddly, also an export market for Hong Kong. Roughly 5 percent of Hong Kong's pork imports during 1996 were re-exported to the People's Republic, through unofficial channels. Re-exports through these means are expected to remain stable so long as China's pork market is restricted.
Hog inventories are estimated to have fallen during 1996, under pressure from high feed prices. A strong recovery is forecast for 1997 as grain prices fall and inventories jump to a record 443 million head. Live hog exports remained stable, as China's primary customer, Hong Kong, continued to import hogs for slaughter.
High hog slaughter rates, triggered by high prices for feed and for live hogs, resulted in record meat production during 1996. Production is forecast to remain flat during 1997, as inventories are rebuilt. Pork exports are estimated to have remained flat, as declining exports to other markets have been offset by increased sales to China's largest market, the Russian Federation.
The EU pork sector was not immune from the effects of the BSE crisis in the EU beef industry. The BSE crisis began on March 20, 1996 when the UK Ministry of Health announced a potential link between BSE and new variant of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. At the beginning of 1996, EU hog inventories were entering their third consecutive year of decline, with a modest decrease forecast over the course of 1996. However, the sudden price increase for pork, spurred by the shift in consumer preferences from beef to pork, led many producers to retain breeding stock and to increase their pig crop. As a result, the beginning hog inventory for 1997 is now forecast at 117 million head, up 1.7 percent from January 1, 1996 and up 2.5 percent from the USDA's initial forecast. Growth in inventories were seen in Denmark, Spain and the UK.
Inventories are expected to increase to 118 million head by the end of 1997, but this may be tempered by the current hog cholera outbreak in the Netherlands. The Dutch government is proposing to slaughter 800,000 hogs and piglets to ensure eradication of the disease. If the disease remains contained as currently anticipated, this should not affect the overall performance of the Dutch pork sector. A worsening the of the situation, however, could endanger Dutch pork exports as well as live hog exports to EU member states, estimated at 6 million head for 1997.
EU pork production in 1996, initially forecast to decrease slightly, has been revised upwards to 15.4 million tons, an increase of 0.4 percent from 1995. Production increased in Denmark, Spain, the UK, France, Germany and Italy; the latter three countries saw the most dramatic declines in beef consumption for the year. A larger breeding herd and pig crop are expected to increase slaughter 2 percent in 1997, resulting in 15.7 million tons of production.
Higher pork prices on the EU internal market drew down exports to third countries from 741,000 tons in 1995 to 724,000 tons in 1996. Exports were off in Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Exports are expected to rebound in 1997 to 768,000 tons.
Danish beginning hog inventories in 1997 reached a record level of 11.1 million head, an increase of 3 percent over 1996. This increase was due to higher producer prices and increased consumer demand for pork during 1996, prompting producers to expand their herds. Higher hog numbers could provide producers with an incentive to supply more live hogs to the German market, in light of the hog cholera situation in the Netherlands. Denmark is the third largest exporter of live hogs within the EU and the second largest exporter to Germany, a major market for live hogs. Most German slaughterhouses operate with excess capacity and can offer prices to Danish producers which more than offset transportation costs. However, most Danish hog producers have long term obligations to deliver to Danish slaughterhouses, and may only sell part of their production to other slaughterhouses. Denmark's third country exports are forecast to rise to 425,000 tons, an increase of 7 percent over 1996, and its highest level since 1994.
French beginning hog inventory increased 2 percent in 1997 after dropping slightly in 1996. A slight reduction is forecast for 1998 as hog prices are expected to decline due to oversupply. Pork production was boosted to record levels in 1996, totaling 2.2 million tons, an increase of 2 percent over 1995. This increase was due to fewer live hog exports, higher live hog imports, and increased domestic production. The forecast for 1997 calls for a new record level of 2.3 million tons, an increase of 3 percent versus a year ago. Pork consumption in France had been on the rise recently as pork production had increased. The BSE scare in 1996 only brought a slight increase in pork consumption; however, pork consumption is forecast to increase to a near record level of 2.1 million tons consumed in 1997, up 2 percent over 1996. Higher pork production in 1997 is expected to have a dampening effect on pork prices, prompting higher consumption. In addition, consumer confidence is not expected to return quickly to the beef sector, further affecting pork prices. French third country pork exports have been on the rise in the last few years, totaling 149,000 tons in 1996 and are forecast to rise further in 1997 to 160,000 tons, an increase of 7 percent over 1996.
German beginning hog inventory was 24.5 million head in 1997, up 3 percent over 1996. Prospects for 1998, however, are not as good; beginning inventory is expected to remain at its 1997 level of 24.5 million. Live hog imports continue to increase as German processors contend with excess capacity. Hog imports in 1996 hit a record 3.1 million head, up 1 percent from 1995. The forecast for hog imports in 1997 are for another record level of 3.3 million head, a 6 percent increase over 1996. The only downside to this scenario is the impact hog cholera might have on German hog production. At this time, it is too soon to know if any real shortage will occur or not. Pork production was virtually unchanged in 1996 from 1995, totaling 3.1 million tons. A 3 percent increase in pork production is forecast for 1997, as higher prices and lower feed costs have prompted producers to increase their herds. Pork consumption in Germany increased 2 percent in 1996 largely due to the BSE scare. Prospects for 1997 are good as consumption is again forecast to increase by 2 percent. German consumer confidence in the beef market is not expected to return in the interim, boosting pork consumption.
Russia's need for pork continued in 1996, as pork imports reached 360,000 tons, an increase of 16 percent over 1995. Pork imports in 1997 are estimated at 400,000 tons, an increase of 11 percent over last year. The need for pork imports is forecast to continue the next several years as hog production does not appear to be stabilizing at its reduced levels. Beginning inventory in 1996 was 9 percent lower than 1995, while inventory in 1997 was 8 percent lower than 1996. Further contraction in hog production is forecast for 1998.
Most of Russia's pork imports in 1996 were supplied by China. Its share of the Russian market was 37 percent, followed by Denmark, with a 12 percent share, and the United States, with a 9 percent share. This was a dramatic turnaround from 1995 when the U.S. share of the Russian pork market was 27 percent. Much of the U.S. product exported to Russia in 1996 contrasted sharply with the type of products exported in 1995. Almost half of the products shipped in 1996 were frozen hams and shoulders, compared with 5 percent in 1995. A whopping 85 percent of the pork exported in 1995 consisted of fresh/chilled/frozen carcasses and boneless pork compared with 37 percent of the same products in 1996. The decline in U.S. pork exports to Russia is mainly due to high U.S. product prices during much of 1996. Prospects for 1997 may improve for the U.S. pork processors, as Poland, a large pork exporter to Russia, may not have enough exportable product due to a 9 percent decline in its own pork production. However, U.S. processors will have to overcome a strong dollar vis-a-vis other pork exporting countries and an expected increase in U.S. pork prices.
Beginning inventories in 1996 were 20.3 million head, up 6 percent from 1995. Rising feed prices and falling producer prices throughout 1996 resulted in lower profits for hog farmers and a reduction in hog inventories for 1997. Beginning inventories in 1997 were 17.7 million head, a drop of 13 percent from last year. Larger supplies of hogs are expected in 1998, as pork prices are expected to strengthen until the last quarter of 1997. Pork production rebounded to its highest level in recent years to 1.6 million tons, an increase of 1 percent over 1995. This increase was due to the herd liquidation that occurred as a result of the high feed grain prices. Due to the inventory reduction, pork production in 1997 is forecast to decline 9 percent, in spite of higher marketings in the latter part of the year.
Poland's net exporter position is forecast to reverse in 1997 due to the shortage in hog supplies. Pork exports in 1996 totaled 130,000 tons, while pork imports were 40,000 tons, a net gain of 90,000 tons. In 1997, pork exports are forecast at 30,000 tons, with pork imports forecast at 70,000 tons, a net loss of 40,000 tons. To offset the shortage in pork supplies and stabilize pork prices, the Polish government procured 118,987 tons of pork carcasses in 1996, releasing 52,156 tons of meat stocks in the last half of the year. The expectation is for the Polish government to continue with the purchase and release of pork through most of 1997, in an attempt to stabilize pork prices. In addition, there has been some pressure on the Polish government to increase the pork import quota, but the latest information available suggest the quota will remain at 35,000 tons.