U.S. pork exports continued to excel in April, beating the previous one-month record by nearly 12% to reach 387.2 million pounds of pork and pork variety meats valued at $391.5 million. The previous record, 346 million pounds exported, was set in February.

The pork success story becomes more compelling by comparing exports for the first four months of 2008 vs. 2007. Total pork exports for 2008 rose by an impressive 52% over the year prior to 1.38 billion pounds worth $1.4 billion.

“U.S. pork has set export records for 16 consecutive years, and there’s no sign that the world’s appetite for U.S. pork is slackening one bit,” says Erin Daley, manager of research and analysis for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

In the first four months of 2008, exports comprised 22% of total U.S. pork and pork variety meat production, compared to 16.5% last year.

Year-to-date highlights by country/region include:
-- Japan was still the top buyer with total pork exports up 17% to 319.5 million pounds valued at $460 million;

-- The China/Hong Kong region follows closely behind with exports up 311% to 319.2 million pounds valued at $243.5 million. April exports set a new record for the region at 93.3 million pounds;

-- Exports to Mexico were up 10% to 228.5 million pounds, but still lag record 2006 volumes by 16%;

-- Exports to Russia set a new record in April at 40.7 million pounds for a January-April total of 128.6 million pounds, up 142% from the first four months of 2007;

-- Exports to Canada were up 24% to 117.6 million pounds;

-- Exports to South Korea were up 12% to 107 million pounds;

-- Exports to Southeast Asia were up 316% to 34 million pounds, and

-- Exports to the European Union were up 117% to 30.1 million pounds.

Imports of live Canadian hogs rose 14%, with feeder pig imports up 19% and slaughter hog imports up 4.5%, through May.

The forecast for U.S. pork exports for 2008 declined slightly, but shipments are still projected to finish 36% above last year.

Pork production estimates for 2008 and 2009 also were lowered slightly, reflecting lower live imports from Canada and lower U.S. pork production in response to higher grain prices.

Per capital pork consumption is expected to decline by about a pound from an estimated 50.7 lb. in 2008 to 49.6 lb. in 2009, according to USMEF.