* Pork shipments record-high
* Japan demand helps lift beef trade
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Canada likely shipped a record volume of pork in 2010, especially to the United States, Russia and Mexico, but an industry official said shrinking herds will make that feat tough to match this year.
Beef exports may have tallied up the largest volume in eight years in 2010 and could have even bigger upside this year once China resumes beef trade with Canada.
Through October, Canada shipped about 913,000 tonnes of pork in 2010, up nearly 4 percent from the year-ago period, according to Statistics Canada.
“The industry has focused on export markets over the years because the packer will always look at where he can get the best return,” said Jacques Pomerleau, executive director of marketing agency Canada Pork International.
Farmers have cut their hog herds to the smallest size in 13 years after years of losses due to high currency and feed costs. Even so, Canadian slaughter rates are stable because fewer live hogs are going to the United States due to its restrictive country-of-origin labelling law, Pomerleau said.
The United States bought about 5 percent more pork through October, roughly 281,000 tonnes in total, as its packers looked for supplies with U.S. herds shrinking, Pomerleau said.
A trucking dispute that led to Mexico slapping a tariff last year on U.S. pork allowed Canada to ship nearly 75 percent more pork to Mexico, or about 58,000 tonnes in total.
Russia bought 42 percent more Canadian pork, or 74,000 tonnes through October, after approving half a dozen Canadian packing plants for shipments, including Maple Leaf Foods (MFI.TO) and Olymel LP, Pomerleau said. Russia regularly approves and de-lists plants in exporting countries based on concerns about various plant standards, he said.
Canada is the third-biggest shipper of pork and beef.
Canada shipped nearly 350,000 tonnes of beef and veal through October, according to government data, but that figure may be conservative, said Herb McLane, acting vice-president of international programs at Canada Beef Export Federation.
When final numbers are in, Canada may have shipped its biggest volume since 2002, the year before a finding of mad cow disease triggered a series of market closures, McLane said.
A near doubling of volume to Japan -- the biggest in nine years -- led the way, helped by that country’s strong currency and focused efforts by the Canadian industry, CBEF said.
Japan, the world’s third-largest beef importer, bought 13,277 tonnes through November, CBEF said.
Canada also benefited from improving global economic conditions that stimulated appetites for beef, said John Masswohl, director of government and international relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
“People aren’t going to high-end restaurants if they’re worried about their jobs,” he said.
Hong Kong and Russia eased restrictions on Canadian beef late in 2009, leading to more trade last year.
China, which said last summer it would allow some access for Canadian beef, represents bigger upside in 2011.
It has not yet accepted commercial shipments as it studies plant conditions, but trade is expected to resume soon.
“It looks awfully good,” McLane said of this year’s export prospects. “We’re very bullish about how the international market looks for processors and exporters.”
Chicago live cattle futures LCc1 have spiked 17 percent since mid-year 2010, while hog futures LHc1 have been flat. (Editing by Marguerita Choy)