The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) says pork exports had an “impressive month” in April as pork and pork variety meat export values increased about 7% over April 2009 and reached its highest level since November 2008.

April pork and pork variety meat shipments totaled 344.4 million pounds valued at $400.95 million. For January-April, U.S. pork exports reached 1.38 billion pounds valued at $1.51 billion, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by USMEF.

More importantly, April sales of pork muscle cuts were valued at $345 million, 11% above April 2009.

In the first quarter of the year, the two largest markets for U.S. pork products showed divergent trends. Mexico had run well ahead of its record-breaking pace in 2009, while Japan slipped due to higher domestic supplies and increased foreign competition.

But both countries recorded solid results in April. Mexico’s purchases of U.S. pork overall were up slightly in volume to 90.6 million pounds, but value rose by 22% to $73.6 million. The increase in muscle cut exports was even greater, up 27% in volume to 62.1 million pounds and 53% in value to $56.1 million.

For the year, Mexico continues to exceed last year’s pace by 6% in volume (414.4 million pounds) and 25% in value ($331.1 million). For muscle cuts alone, U.S. pork exports to Mexico are up by a respectable 25% in volume to 283.5 million pounds and 47% in value at $250.8 million.

For April, Japan was up 9% in volume to 93.2 million pounds and 8% in value to $159 million compared to April 2009. For muscle cuts alone, April exports to Japan increased by 6% in volume to 88.2 million pounds and 8% in value to $155.9 million.

For the year, Japan is down 11% in volume at 309.8 million pounds and 7% in value to $528.8 million compared to the same period a year ago.

“We are obviously delighted to see strong signs of recovery for U.S. pork in Japan,” says USMEF Vice Chair Danita Rodibaugh, a pork producer from Rensselaer, IN. “Japan was a $1.5-billion market in both 2008 and 2009, so it is critical to our worldwide performance. While we’re not quite back to the tremendous pace that was previously set in Japan, we made significant strides in that direction in April.”

Rodibaugh was also excited about momentum U.S. pork continues to build in Mexico.

“Our April volume to Mexico was the lowest so far this year, but the value numbers were just fantastic,” she says. “As pork prices rise domestically and internationally, Mexico is proving very resilient. Buyers have found a quality product in U.S. pork, and they are showing a strong willingness to pay for it.”

Other market highlights include:

  • Pork and pork variety meat sales to Hong Kong were strong for April and for the year were up by 48% in volume and 28% in value.
  • A strong April performance pushed 2010 exports to Canada up 12% in volume to 126.7 million pounds and up 21% in value ($188.5 million).
  • U.S. pork exports to the ASEAN region grew by 51% in volume to 67.2 million pounds and 65% in value to $57 million.
  • Exports to Australia grew 12% in volume (41.6 million pounds) and 9% in value ($44.86 million).
  • Central/South America recorded continued growth in 2010, with exports up about a third in volume (45.1 million pounds) and nearly 40% in value ($45.6 million).
  • Pork sales to Taiwan grew only 2% in volume (28.3 million pounds), but value was up 21% ($23 million).
  • South Korea has been a difficult market in 2010, with exports down 27% in volume (74.8 million pounds) and off 31% in value ($69.5 million).
  • January-April pork exports to Russia were down more than 70% in both volume and value compared to last year.

For more details, go to www.USMEF.org.