U.S. June pork exports were 4% higher in value than last year, based on statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

June pork exports totaled 165,065 metric tons (one metric tons equals 2,204.622 lb.) valued at $468.3 million. This pushed the total for the first half of the year to 1.13 million metric tons valued at $3.17 billion, which was 5% higher in volume and 13% higher in value than in the record pace of 2011.

June export value equated to $54.78/head slaughtered, bumping per-head value for the year to $57.80 – more than 10% higher than in the first half of 2011. For the year, about 24% of U.S. muscle cut production has been exported and nearly 28% of total production (muscle cuts plus variety meat). Last year these ratios were 22.5% and 27%, respectively.

Markets driving first half export growth for U.S. pork included volume leader Mexico, which was up 13% in volume to 294,097 metric tons and 11% in value to $537.4 million. Value pacesetter Japan was up 7% in value ($1.01 billion) despite a 7% decline in volume (231,984 metric tons). June was a rather slow month for Japan, with export volume posting the lowest total (32,923 metric tons) since September 2010.

“The remainder of 2012 will be very challenging in Japan, but we continue to pursue new marketing opportunities,” says USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “In Mexico, we are focused on growing overall pork consumption, as this will definitely pay long-term dividends for the U.S. industry.”

Russia provided a significant boost for June’s pork results, with export volume up 75% from a year ago to 11,094 metric tons. Export value topped $30 million – an increase of more than 50% over June 2011, bolstered by strong demand for higher-value products such as boneless hams and boneless loins. Through June, this year’s pork exports to Russia were up 42% in volume (50,226 metric tons) and 38% in value ($145 million).

“U.S. pork still faces obstacles in Russia, but we are gaining traction there,” Seng says. “This is the first year in which the United States is participating in Russia’s large (400,000 metric tons) global import quota, which expands our growth potential. On Aug. 23, the duty rate on pork imported under this quota drops from 15% to zero. This will level the playing field for U.S. pork, especially vis-à-vis Brazil, which for many years has enjoyed a tariff rate advantage.”

Other key growth markets for U.S. pork in the first half of 2012 included: China/Hong Kong, up 28% in volume (221,876 metric tons) and 72% in value ($448.6 million); Canada, up 14% in volume (110,876 metric tons) and 20% in value ($402.8 million); and Central and South America, up 16% in volume (39,700 metric tons) and 17% in value ($101 million).

Complete export results are available online.