In the last five days of trading, pork wholesale prices have climbed sharply, reaching new, all-time record highs, and on Tuesday closed at $106.23/cwt., $15.30/cwt. or nearly 17% higher than a similar period a year ago.

Hog futures prices Tuesday for Iowa/Minnesota hit $103.98, $19.53 or 23.4% higher than the comparable period a year ago, according to Steve Meyer and Len Steiner in the Daily Livestock Report. Futures prices are being buoyed by recent cash performance.

The price surge is being driven by pork sales to China, which is expected to remain very strong through the month of August.

Beyond that, much depends on pork prices in China and the ability of the Chinese to ramp up production. While China is the largest pork producer in the world, and has a hog herd of almost half a billion animals, many operations are small in scale, enabling expansion to take place much faster than in more concentrated pork industries such as the United States.

So it is much easier for China’s small pork producers to ramp up production than it is for U.S. operations that must mull the feasibility of making large-scale investments, Meyer and Steiner suggest.

In the hog cycle in the United States 30 years ago, there were many more smaller producers, and with it a lot more volatility in the hog industry.