U.S. pork exports continue to outshine 2007 performance with shipments through November 2008 at 20% above year-ago levels.

For the first 11 months of 2008, pork and pork variety meat exports were 61% larger than 2007 at 4.18 billion pounds, worth $4.5 billion, an increase of 59%.

“Global protein supplies remain tight, with the exception of a few situations in key countries where stocks of imported meats are weighing on the market, specifically in South Korea and China,” reports Erin Daley, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) economist. “As currencies and prices stabilize, inventories will decline and demand for U.S. meat will likely continue at a relatively strong level. Although pork exports are not expected to maintain the stunning pace of 2008, they are forecast to exceed 2007 volumes,” Daley says.

“The bottom line is that, regardless of the global economic situation, people have to eat,” she remarks. “U.S. beef and pork prices are lower than they were during the summer, which helps offset the increased strength of the U.S. dollar.”

Shipments of U.S. pork products accounted for nearly 25% of production, with export value equal to $43/head slaughtered, compared to less than $30/head during the same period in 2007, according to Daley.

“Pork remains a very affordable protein, and our exports continue to defy projections,” she says.

Mexico led the way in purchases of U.S. pork in November, setting another new record at 91.3 million pounds, up 50% from November 2007. January through November exports to Mexico increased 40% to 768.2 million pounds, valued at $614.2 million.

Japan came in second in November buying 88.9 million pounds of U.S. pork, up 22%. Japan remains the largest destination for U.S. pork in 2008 at 921.5 million pounds for January through November, valued at $1.43 billion.

The China/Hong Kong region was the third-largest market for U.S. pork in November, buying 42.9 million pounds, primarily to Hong Kong. November purchases were the smallest to the region since December 2007. But January-November exports still were up 148% to 832.1 million pounds, valued at $652.6 million.

Pork exports to Russia in November were down 8% to 32.2 million pounds, but January-November sales were up 141% at 473.9 million pounds worth $469.3 million.

The trade quota to Russia for 2009 was negotiated at 220 million pounds, beneficial considering oil priced at about $40/barrel and the global economic situation, USMEF reports.

U.S. pork exports to Canada set a new monthly record in November at 38.5 million pounds, up 8% from November 2007. January through November exports climbed 17% to 346.4 million pounds, worth $514.3 million.

“Exports were surprisingly strong considering the weakening of the Canadian dollar and the slowing of live hog exports to the United States (Canadian hog imports dropped 38% during 2008).” Daley says.