U.S. pork exports in May were up 3% in volume (186,809 metric tons) from a year ago and 9% higher in value ($524.3 million). Through the first five months of the year, pork exports exceeded last year’s record pace by 6% in volume (968,485 metric tons) and 15% in value ($2.7 billion).

Although May was the strongest month so far this year for U.S. beef exports, volume (95,221 metric tons) was down 13% percent compared to May 2011 and stood 10% lower (456,343 metric tons) through the first five months of the year. Beef export value in May ($471.1 million) was 4% higher than a year ago, which kept year-to-date export value ($2.19 billion) 5% ahead of last year’s record pace.

These results are based on statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). One metric ton equals 2,204.622 pounds. Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat unless otherwise noted.

With the exceptions of South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, U.S. pork export value is trending upward to every major destination. Exports to South Korea were extremely high in 2011, due in part to a foot-and-mouth disease-related shortage of domestic pork and temporary duty-free access for a large volume of imports. U.S. pork exports to South Korea through May stood at 77,790 metric tons valued at $222.8 million, down 32% in volume and 19% in value from last year’s record pace, but still far exceeding exports in the first five months of any previous year.

Mexico continues to perform well as the leading volume destination for U.S. pork and ranks No. 2 in value. While May exports to Mexico were about even with last year, exports through the first five months of the year were 15% higher in volume (254,059 metric tons) and 13% higher in value ($463.6 million). USMEF recently launched a campaign to build overall demand in Mexico by enhancing the image of pork and broadening its appeal among Mexican consumers.

“USMEF has reached agreements with several major supermarket chains in Mexico – totaling more than 500 outlets – to help USMEF promote pork through advertising and point-of-sale materials and to collect important sales data for evaluating the effectiveness of the campaign,” explains USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “Per capita pork consumption in Mexico is only about 25 pounds per year, compared to 47 pounds in the United States. So we feel there is still great potential for expansion of overall demand, with the U.S. industry positioned to be the primary beneficiary.”

Japan remains the leading value destination for U.S. pork, with exports through May reaching $869.1 million. This is 10% above last year’s record pace, despite a 5% decline in volume (199,061 metric tons).

Other pork highlights for January-May 2012 include:

• Despite an upswing in domestic pork supplies and a softening of the hog market in China, exports to the China/Hong Kong region were up 34% in volume (192,926 metric tons) and 83% in value ($389.2 million).

• Exports to Canada were up 14% in volume (91,424 metric tons) and 19% in value ($328.7 million).

• In the first year under a new quota system, exports to Russia are off to an excellent start – 35% higher in both volume (39,132 metric tons) and value ($115 million).

• In the Central and South America region, where U.S. pork and beef are currently on display at the USMEF Latin American Product Showcase in Bogota, Colombia, pork exports were up 13% in volume (33,266 metric tons) and 16% in value ($85 million). This expansion was led by growth in Colombia, where exports were up 62% in volume (5,596 metric tons) and more than doubled in value ($15.9 million).

• The controversy over beta agonists continues to create a difficult business climate in Taiwan, where pork exports were down 45% in volume (8,108 metric tons) and 29% in value ($18.2 million). Larger domestic supplies have also impacted this market, as Taiwan’s pork imports from all sources are down nearly 40% this year.