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US pork group predicts virus could hike consumer prices 10-12 percent

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US pork group predicts virus could hike consumer prices 10-12 percent
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By Ros Krasny

WASHINGTON — U.S. hog prices could rise by 15 percent to 25 percent and consumer prices for pork by 10 percent to 12 percent as a result of a virus that has killed some 7 million piglets in the United States, the National Pork Producers Council said on Wednesday.

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But because consumer demand for pork has so far not slipped in response to rising prices, the industry is poised for a strong financial year, NPPC President Howard Hill said in testimony prepared for a House Agriculture Committee panel.

Hill said hog slaughter this summer could fall by more than 10 percent relative to 2013 because of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv).

U.S. pork production likely will fall 6 percent to 8 percent in the third quarter, he said.

Shane Miller, senior vice president of Tyson Foods, repeated the meat producer’s earlier forecast for domestic hog supplies to fall by 2 percent to 4 percent this fiscal year but said porkdemand remains strong.

“We have continued to see increased consumer demand for pork products,” Miller said.

According to Hill, inelastic demand for pork could be a economic win for many hog producers.

“When combined with lower costs of production, the pork industry could enjoy perhaps its best year ever financially, and producers — even those who lose hogs to PEDv — likely would see their best individual years ever, as well,” Hill said.

PEDv was first being identifi ed in the United States a year ago. More than 4,000 outbreaks have been seen in at least 30 U.S. states, four Canadian provinces and several areas of Mexico.

The virus causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration, and is transmitted orally and through pig feces. While older pigs have a chance of survival, the virus kills 80 percent to 100 percent of piglets that contract it.