On the heels of a record-setting year in 2011, the pace of U.S. pork exports shows no sign of slackening. After two months of results, the volume of exports in 2012 is up 18% vs. the start of 2011, while the value of those exports is up a solid 31%.
All of the top markets showed solid growth, with Mexico continuing to lead the way with a 20% hike in purchases totaling 113,424 metric tons (250.1 million pounds), valued at $208 million (up 24%).
Japan, the value leader, Japan, has spent $342 million on 80,316 metric tons of U.S. pork over the last two months, marking an 8% increase in volume and a 22% boost in value over 2011 totals.
The two-month total for 2012 pork exports is 399,086 metric tons (879.8 million pounds) valued at $1.1 billion. The export value per head slaughtered equates to $58.17, which is more than $7 higher than last year at this time.
When all pork products are considered, including muscle cuts and variety meat, exports in 2012 account for 27.7% of total U.S. pork production.
The continued growth of the Chinese market is evident, registering a 61% jump in the volume of U.S. pork purchases (62,481 metric tons or 137.7 million pounds) and a 112% increase in value to $122.3 million.
Canada and Korea were other staple markets for American pork exports in January and February 2012. Canada purchased 36,484 metric tons (up 36%) valued at $129.9 million (up 45%) and South Korea bought 36,399 metric tons (up 11%) valued at $104 million (up 28%).
“It takes a strong effort at every level to keep these mainstay markets performing at such a strong pace,” notes U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng. “The retail, foodservice and processing sectors are all critically important to the U.S. industry’s ability to remain the leading supplier to both Japan and Mexico, and USMEF continues to target them aggressively. We also are very focused on the branded market in Japan, which offers fertile ground for expanding sales of U.S. pork.”
In addition, the U.S. is continuing to see solid growth from some secondary markets. Australia, for example, purchased 12,423 metric tons of U.S. pork valued at $38.9 million this year – increases of about 33% each.
Similarly, Central and South America is an expanding region for U.S. pork. Chile and Colombia have each posted gains of more than 50% for volume and value.
Another potentially large customer is Russia, which purchased 8,258 metric tons of pork (up 3%) valued at $25.2 million (up 20%).
While the overall export picture is very bright, there are opportunities for improvement. Exports to Taiwan from all sources are currently down while it wrestles with a controversy related to ractopamine residues. So far this year, U.S. pork exports stand at 4,693 metric tons (down 19%) valued at $10.4 million, which is even with last year.
In addition, regulatory issues in the Philippines and Singapore have cut into export volumes to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), dropping 18% to 7,169 metric tons, although the value of those exports managed a small increase to $18.3 million.
For perspective, 2011 was far and away the best full year for U.S. pork exports in history as America shipped 2.25 million metric tons (4.97 billion pounds) of pork around the globe for $6.1 billion. Those totals eclipsed the 2008 records for volume (by 10%) and value (by 25%).