U.S. pork exports fell in July compared to a year earlier, but value exceeded year-ago levels, based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork export value in July rose by 4% over last year at $385.8 million, pushing the January-July 2010 cumulative total to $2.74 billion, according to USMEF. This level of value is 8% higher than in 2009 and just 1% below the all-time record pace set in 2008. July export volume was 4% lower than in July 2009, but the cumulative volume of 2.42 million tons was still 2% above last year.

USMEF points out that strong performance in the top three markets for U.S. pork – Japan, Mexico and Canada – has helped offset poorer performance in South Korea, Vietnam, China and Russia, maintaining export results ahead of last year’s pace.

Mexico has surpassed its record-shattering purchases of U.S. pork in 2009 by buying 8% more pork (684,653 tons) worth 31% more ($560 million) in 2010. The market has proven very resilient, even as prices for ham and other popular cuts have risen significantly. The results don’t reflect the new 5% retaliatory tariffs on ham and shoulder cuts that took effect in July.

Pork exports to Japan started the year off slow, but have recovered and pulled even with last year’s pace in terms of volume (571,883 tons) and improved 3% in value ($968.9 million).

“We are certainly pleased with the rebound in demand for U.S. pork, but this is not the time for the U.S. industry to let its guard down in Japan,” stresses USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “While Japan’s total pork imports are up, the U.S. market share has actually slipped slightly compared to last year. We cannot afford to be complacent in Japan or rest on our past successes because this is the highest-value pork market that delivers tremendous returns for U.S. producers. Every pork-producing country in the world knows this and will leap at the opportunity to capture market share if the United States pulls back.”

Exports to Canada were 229,090 tons valued at $353.8 million, increases of 13% and 24% respectively, in the third-largest market for U.S. pork.

Exports to the ASEAN region are up nearly 40% in volume (95,984 tons) and 50% in value ($84.7 million).
USMEF’s Joel Haggard, senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, says emerging markets represent an important cog in continued export growth.

“We are very bullish on the Philippines, for example, where the economy is showing a lot of promise and the investment we have made in USMEF promotions is really beginning to pay big dividends,” he says. “Australia has also been a very strong area of growth for U.S. pork. USMEF has established excellent relationships with the major meat processors in Australia, and we are moving an increasing amount of product into that sector.”

For more information, log onto www.USMEF.org.