U.S. pork exports in May 2009 were expected to be the most impacted by the H1N1 Flu Outbreak Virus, but the negative fallout was less than some analysts predicted, according to an analysis of USDA data by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

All volume and value totals are for pork plus pork variety meat unless otherwise indicated.

Pork and pork variety meat exports for May reached 316.8 million pounds valued at $342.6 million. Totals are down 9% in value and 9.5% in volume from April, and down a substantial 24% in value and 27% in volume compared to May 2008.

But USMEF pointed out that May 2008 was a historic high point for U.S. pork exports, and no one expected those levels to be repeated, even before the flu outbreak slowed demand and closed major markets for U.S. pork.

When compared to May 2007, pork exports in May 2009 actually increased 43% in volume and 36% in value, and surpassed the volume and value achieved in any single month of that year.

During the first five months of 2009, exports dropped 4% in volume to 1.7 billion pounds and 1% in value to $1.8 billion from the same period a year ago. Total percentage of pork production exported at 23.3% is similar to last year’s pace.

“Certainly we don’t like to see a decline in pork exports for any reason,” says USMEF Chairman Jon Caspers, a Swaledale, IA, pork producer. “But considering the blow we were dealt by the H1N1 Flu Outbreak Virus, on top of an already shaky global economy, the May results were not as lackluster as some had feared. But now we need to put these trade suspensions and other barriers behind us and work aggressively to ensure that these effects don’t linger.”

Caspers praised those markets that remained open to U.S. pork and worked to correct misinformation that attempted to link pork consumption with the flu outbreak.

“USMEF worked very closely with the governments of Mexico, Japan, Korea and many other countries to keep these markets open and to ensure that their trade policies remain science-based,” Caspers says. “Despite considerable pressure in some of these countries, most remained fully open. Consumer demand took a hit in the early stages of the outbreak, but seems to have bounced back fairly quickly as people became better informed about the safety of U.S. pork.”

Total pork exports to Mexico declined about 15% from April, while volume at 75.5 million pounds was still 18% higher than in May 2008, noteworthy considering that Mexico was regarded as the epicenter of the flu outbreak. For the first five months of the year, Mexico has boosted purchases of U.S. pork by 48% in value and nearly 60% in volume over the same period in 2008.

Japan remains the leader in U.S. pork sales, surpassing last year’s record pace for the first five months of the year by 4% in volume (423.4 million pounds) and 17% in value.

Also recording growth during the first five months of 2009 were Taiwan (up 75% in volume and 63% in value), Australia (up 33% in volume and 35% in value), the Caribbean region (up 56% in volume and 53% in value) and Central and South America (up 25% in volume and 37% in value).

Large reductions occurred in the Hong Kong/China market (46% in volume and 48% in value), and Russia (34% in volume and 35% in value).

Complete statistics can be viewed at www.usmef.org.