Pork producers are feeling the effects of the swine flu as the number of reported cases of the virus increases. Stock prices for Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, and Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, fell 12 percent and 9 percent today, respectively. The Wall Street Journal reports that the prices of hogs, corn, and soybeans also dropped today. About 16 percent of U.S. pork exports have been shipped to Mexico over the past year – a country where so far 149 people have died from the swine flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials have emphasized that swine flu viruses are not transmitted by food and people cannot contract the virus by eating pork or pork products. That fact alone does not seem to be enough to quell consumers’ fears. MarketWatch earlier today quoted a pork industry analyst as saying the industry wants to avoid a slip of exports and prices akin to the 2003 avian flu outbreak in Asia. Analyst Heather Jones said she believes the pork industry “needs to undertake an aggressive and widespread informational marketing campaign.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting that Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. announced today that it is closing 10 of its Mexico City cafes in response to the swine flu outbreak and pursuant to instructions from the Mexican government.