U.S. pork exports continued their strong push in July, on pace to set record levels for 2008, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

The fast pace of pork exports this year has largely been due to skyrocketing volumes of pork destined for China/Hong Kong. But even a major slowdown in that market in July couldn’t stall global momentum for U.S. pork, which was offset by growth in other major export markets.

“Pork exports to China/Hong Kong have been riding an astonishing wave this year, and we knew this pace could not be sustained forever,” says USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “But these latest results show the diversity and depth of demand that U.S. pork has achieved worldwide. We’re not overly dependent on a single market.”

Pork and pork variety meat sales to Mexico in July set a new monthly record of 85.9 million pounds valued at more than $75 million. Exports to Mexico in the first seven months of the year are 445.9 million pounds worth $345.7 million, an increase of 31% in volume and 39% in value over last year.

Pork exports to Russia in July reached 43.8 million pounds valued at $42.3 million. That puts Russia’s total for January-July 2008 at 250.1 million pounds worth $240 million. This represents a 153% increase in volume and a 158% increase in value over the same period last year.

Japan remains the largest destination for U.S. pork in terms of value. For January-July 2008, Japan purchased 571.3 million pounds valued at $849.7 million, representing an increase of 24% in volume and 27% in value over 2007.

Canada’s imports of U.S. pork in the first seven months of 2008 rose 24% in volume and 21% in value at 211.8 million pounds worth $313.5 million.

Exports to South Korea totaled 181 million pounds valued at $172.2 million for January-July 2008, an increase of 41% in volume and 23% in value compared to last year.

Pork exports to China/Hong Kong in the first half of the year rose 324% over the same period in 2007. But efforts to expand domestic production resulted in a decline of 41% in pork exports in July compared to June.