“It does appear the quarantine will last a relatively long period — at least a year andperhaps longer,” he said. “Even if the quarantine is lifted, Taiwan will have a hardtime recovering their pork export business.” “There’s a great potential for U.S. pork exports to increase dramatically because of theTaiwan health problems,” said John McKissick, a livestock economist with theUniversity of Georgia Extension Service. Georgia hog farmers are looking forward to one of their first profitable years since theearly ’90s. Increasing world demand, fewer hogs in production and dropping farm andfeed costs are brightening their profit picture. Of the U.S. hog herd, 5 percent is about 4.5 million hogs. On March 1, Georgia’s hogherd was pegged at 800,000 head, down 11 percent from a year ago. McKissick putsthe value of the herd at $66 million at any one time. Hogs brought the state’s farmers$145 million during 1995. McKissick expects farmers will ride the Taiwan-induced price wave for a year at least. U.S. hog farmers don’t have to contend with foot-and-mouth disease. McKissick saidefforts to control the disease eliminated it in U.S. hogs in the mid-1940s. “If we were able to fill 5 percent of our production by exporting (to Japan), that wouldincrease our prices by about $4 per hundredweight,” McKissick said. An animal disease half a world away is already showing its effects to Georgia hogfarmers. “With the added increase in exports to fill the loss from Taiwan disease problems, wewould expect to have an even more profitable situation,” McKissick said. The 14 million-head Taiwanese swine herd is under quarantine because offoot-and-mouth disease. That prevents any farmer in the country from exporting livehogs or pork products. Taiwan supplies about half of Japan’s demand for pork. As prices to farmers rise, retail prices are likely to climb, too. “We would expect retailprices to go up some,” he said. “But there is a very large margin between wholesaleprices and retail prices.” That difference could buffer a retail price hike. As wholesale prices fell over the pastfew months, retail prices didn’t drop the same amount, McKissick said. “So prices atthe grocery store probably won’t reflect the entire price increase farmers will see.” U.S. farmers have a chance to fill that void. The increase could mean an extra $10 per hog for farmers. “That’s a significantnumber to add to what appeared to be an already profitable price for most Georgia hogproducers,” McKissick said.