Implemented earlier this month, the weekly reporting of pork muscle cut volumes going into the international market will give the industry timely feedback on export trends that are critically important to a growing segment of the U.S. pork industry.

The decision to include pork muscle cut export volumes in the Mandatory Price Reporting (MAP) Act provisions dates back to the fall of 2010.  As the percentage of pork production continues to climb, the demand for more current information follows. The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) received its first weekly data on March 28 and issued its initial report on April 4.

The interest in pork exports is easy to understand.  In 1994, the United States exported a modest 4.7% of total pork production (muscle cuts and variety meat) with a per-head value of $7.03. By 2007, the total had increased to 16.5% of total U.S. production with a per-head export value of $29.18. In February 2013, pork exports represented a much more robust 27.9% of total production with a per-head value of $57.56.

“There’s no question that weekly export reporting is a useful tool,” says Dan Halstrom, senior vice president of global marketing and communications for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).  “It is an important weather vane for market tendencies.”

 

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It must be noted that while these statistics are valuable, they do not reflect trends in variety meat which, in February, accounted for 24.5% of the total volume of pork exports and 17.4% of the value.  One important market that is not fully reflected in the muscle cut-only statistics is China.  In February, more than 66% of the volume and value of U.S. pork exports to China was in variety meat.

While exporters are adjusting to the new sales reporting system, there likely will be some inaccuracies in the data for the near future.  However, the data reported on April 4, which reflected exports for the week of March 29-April 4, is much more current than USDA’s monthly data, which typically is reported two months after the month in question.

For January and February 2013, the top markets for U.S. pork exports – muscle cuts and variety meat – were:

·        Mexico – 98,237 metric tons valued at $183.5 million.

·        Hong Kong/China – 76,402 metric tons valued at $160.4 million.

·        Japan – 71,248 metric tons valued at $320.1 million.

·        Canada – 37,339 metric tons valued at $130.6 million.

·        South Korea – 25,540 metric tons valued at $70.7 million.

Overall, pork exports are down 8% in volume and 7% in value vs. the first two months of last year.  There are several challenges facing U.S. pork exports in 2013, including Russia’s announcement that it will not accept U.S. pork exports until exporters can certify that their product is free of ractopamine residues.  U.S. meat industry associations are working with USDA to develop a program for certifying exports to Russia.

Exports to South Korea from all suppliers have been limited by an oversupply of domestic products.  In addition, Taiwan has refused to set a maximum residue level (MRL) for ractopamine in U.S. pork, although it has agreed to an MRL for beef.

On the positive side, pork exports in February grew at double-digit levels to Central and South America, led by Colombia, and in the ASEAN region, led by the Philippines.  Exports to China also were up significantly in February after a slow January.

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