Impact of Chinese tariffs still unclear for Montana pork producers

Posted at 7:00 PM, Apr 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-02 21:00:46-04

HELENA – Pork industry leaders say it’s still too early to predict how new tariffs on pork exported to China could affect American producers, including those in Montana.

“We’re just going to have to see how the market unfolds,” said Jim Monroe, senior director for public relations for the National Pork Producers Council.

The Chinese government implemented tariffs Monday on about $3 billion worth of U.S. exports to the country, including pork. It is the latest response to President Donald Trump’s recently announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from China.

Monroe said the decision was not surprising, since the U.S. has a large agricultural trade surplus with China.

“When you have trade disputes like this, sectors like U.S. pork that run at a surplus for the United States are a fairly obvious target for a country like China,” he said.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Montana farmers had about 175,000 pigs and hogs in 2015. That makes the state the 23rd largest producer of pork in the country.

Monroe said it’s difficult to estimate how much pork produced in a given state is sent to China, because of the way the national supply chain is organized. However, he said about a quarter of all U.S. hogs, including those in Montana, are produced for export. He said the U.S. exported almost $6.5 billion of pork last year – $1.1 billion of it to China.

“We’re hopeful that the U.S. and China can resolve trade disputes, and that we can return to more favorable access to what is a very important market to us,” he said.

Monroe said demand for pork has increased in recent years as countries like China increase their meat consumption.

He said there has also been some favorable news for pork producers, as a recently renegotiated trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea maintained tariff-free pork exports. South Korea is the fifth largest market for U.S. pork.