Hurricane Florence continues to batter the Eastern Seaboard, with at least 17 deaths reported. Another casualty is emerging—North Carolina’s hog operations, a big contributor to the state’s giant agricultural economy. As the number of hogs sold at the farm gate reached 17.73 million head in 2017, North Carolina is the US’s third-largest pork producer behind Iowa and Minnesota. Hurricane-force winds and flood rains are feared to have killed enough hogs to significantly reduce supply. Smithfield Foods’ Tar Heel pork-processing facility—the largest in the world—was forced to close last week in anticipation of the hurricane. This held up pork processing and delivery of final product. As the storm approached the coast, other pork-processing plants also were forced to close.
Most farmers did not have time to relocate their animals before the storm. Chief executive officer of the North Carolina Pork Council, Andy Curliss, predicted ahead of the storm’s landfall that unless flooding rains exceed 25 inches, major livestock loses wouldn’t be seen. But now, rainfall has reached as high as 30 inches in some areas and rains are expected to continue over the next few days. Gro Intelligence subscribers can monitor how the pork industry responds to Hurricane Florence.
North Carolina is the third-largest producer of hogs in the US (left chart), where domestic consumption has spiked in recent years but still remains below that of both chicken and beef as of 2018. A decline in market positions earlier this year (right chart) reflected strong production figures, but as hog inventories are revealed in the wake of the hurricane, net positions are expected to move higher.