U.S. pork exports are on a blistering pace in 2011, exceeding the record numbers established in 2008, when total pork and pork variety meat exports reached nearly $4.9 billion in value. Through July, exports have already totaled $3.3 billion, an increase of 20% over last year and 18% above the record pace of 2008.

Some of the markets driving this growth come as no surprise. Japan, for example, has been a remarkable mainstay market for U.S. pork and has already surpassed $1 billion for the year. Exports to South Korea have surged with the help of short domestic supplies, but Korea has typically been a solid market for U.S. pork. Mexico, which is the largest volume market for U.S. pork, has been steady this year despite retaliatory tariffs from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) trucking dispute and extremely high imports of U.S. poultry into Mexico. Exports to China have also rebounded to record levels on a resumption of access for U.S. pork and high Chinese pork prices.

It has been rewarding, however, to see growth in markets for U.S. pork that were less prominent just a few years ago. Exports to Canada, for example, have been quite strong in 2011, growing by 9% in volume to more than 250 million pounds and by 13% in value to nearly $400 million. While the strength of the Canadian dollar has made U.S. pork more attractive north of the border, the U.S. industry is also seizing opportunities in the retail, foodservice and processing industries as Canada’s hog slaughter numbers have remained sluggish. While Canada’s total pork exports are up slightly this year, its net pork exports to the United States are down 17% as less Canadian pork is sent south and more U.S. pork is northbound. Canada’s hog slaughter through August was down 1.5% to just over 13 million head. Live hog exports from Canada to the United States were also down 1% to 3.77 million head.

“Canada is extremely aggressive in the international markets and has really stepped up its marketing commitments, especially in Asia,” notes U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Philip Seng. “This creates some excellent opportunities for the U.S. pork industry as Canada must also maintain its domestic supply.”

The Central/South America region has been an area of emphasis for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), which recently added a representative headquartered in Peru, Jessica Julca, and hosted a regional product showcase in Panama that drew 75 meat buyers from throughout the region.

Another example of U.S. pork export growth in a country widely known for its domestic pork production is Chile, which has capitalized on free trade agreements and aggressive international marketing to grow its global pork exports from about $73 million in 2001 to nearly $370 million by the end of the last decade. This year, Chile’s exports are up about 25% and on pace to exceed $400 million for the first time ever. At the same time, Chile is emerging as a very strong destination for U.S. pork, with exports there nearly tripling in volume this year to just over 20 million pounds and increasing 138% in value to $21.1 million.

“We are continuing to partner with importers and retailers throughout the region to raise the visibility and appreciation of U.S. beef and pork,” Seng says. “As we can diversify our exports into new markets, we add value to the carcass and contribute to producer profitability.”

Chile is still not the leading destination in the Southern Hemisphere for U.S. pork exports. That distinction belongs to Australia, a market in which U.S. pork had minimal access as recently as 2004. That year, U.S. pork exports to Australia totaled less than 8 million pounds valued at about $10 million. By 2010, U.S. pork exports to Australia had grown to 115 million pounds valued at more than $148 million. Through July of this year, the pace of exports to Australia is up another 18% in volume and an impressive 43% in value. With five months’ worth of results still remaining, the value of exports to Australia (just over $135 million) is only $13 million short of setting another annual record. Exports should exceed $200 million by year’s end, with the United States surpassing Denmark as Australia’s leading pork supplier.

It is also important to note that this growth has been achieved despite ongoing product restrictions in Australia, including regulations that do not allow fresh or frozen U.S. pork to be sold at retail or foodservice as imports are subject to cooking requirements upon arrival in Australia.

“We are certainly pleased with the growth we have achieved in Australia, as this has been a great success story for the U.S. pork industry,” Seng explains. “But we know there is much more market potential there if we can just gain the opportunity to market our product directly to retail consumers.”

Jim Herlihy
Vice President of Communications
U.S. Meat Export Federation
jherlihy@usmef.org
www.usmef.org