A 45% hike in sales of pork variety meats in February helped overcome a slight dip in exports of pork muscle cuts to rally total pork exports to a 4.7% increase in value over February 2008, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

“We anticipated sharp declines in pork exports to certain markets, including China, when compared to the results we saw last year,” says USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “But markets such as Japan and Mexico continue to perform extremely well, and U.S. pork is regaining traction in many key regions across the world. The diversity and global reach of our marketing efforts are really paying off.”

For February, total pork exports reached $368.2 million in value. Pork muscle cut exports declined by about 1% from last year to $305.6 million, but still remained 45% above values for February 2007.

The volume of pork plus pork variety meat exports at 349.3 million pounds was an increase of 1% over February 2008 and 57% above February 2007.

For January-February 2009, pork plus pork variety meat exports rose 3% in volume over the same period last year to 694.7 million pounds and 6% in value to $728.4 million.

Japan continued its value market dominance in 2009, posting February purchases of 83.3 million pounds of U.S. pork worth $138.6 million, greater by 18% in volume and 32% in value compared to February 2008.

Mexico showed even greater growth in February, with volume surging by 64% over last year to 93.6 million pounds and increasing by 60% in value to $65.6 million.

Other markets showing excellent growth included Taiwan, which doubled the value of its pork plus pork variety meat purchases, and increased volume by 107% compared to February 2008.

Exports to the 10-member ASEAN (Southeast Asia) trade region climbed 60% in volume and 80% in value, led by gains in the Philippines and Singapore.

Exports to Australia climbed by 76% in both volume and value in February, while sales to the Caribbean jumped by 122% in volume and 114% in value over February of last year.

All those gains helped weather steep declines in U.S. pork sales to Russia and China, according to USMEF. Year-to-date total pork shipments to Russia have declined 49% in volume and 57% in value. Exports to China/Hong Kong declined 46% in volume and 48% in value for the period, with exports to China plummeting nearly 75%.

Those results were not unexpected considering the efforts of both countries to grow domestic pork production and reduce their reliance on imports.

China has been especially aggressive in these efforts, explains Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia-Pacific region.

“China’s efforts to bolster its hog industry include assistance in the form of direct cash subsidies to large-scale farms, tax breaks for hog producers and development of targeted hog-raising counties throughout the country,” he says.

For more trade news go online to U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).