Pork exports for February moved slightly higher than a year ago, increasing 2.6% in value to $377.6 million and just under 1% in volume to 159,331 metric tons (351.3 million pounds), according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

“There are solid signs of progress in key markets, and that means positive growth in profitability for U.S. producers,” explained Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO.

Pork exports in February accounted for 25% of total U.S. pork production, accounting for nearly $44/head in value, up from $37.37/head in January.

Mexico was the top destination for U.S. pork in 2009, and remained the No. 1 buyer in 2010, recording a 9% hike in volume to 99,768 metric tons (219.9 million pounds) in January and February valued at $173 million – a 24% increase.

The Mexican trade contributed to the high ham and pork cutout values in January and February, which averaged more than $70/cwt. – also a 24% increase over last year.

Domestic pork production in Japan continues to rise, according to data from Japan’s Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation (ALIC). Monthly domestic pork production has increased, year-on-year, since March 2009.

Marketing of domestic pork in Japan’s current fiscal year (April 2009 through January 2010 data) is up 7 %, while marketing of imported pork is down nearly 14%.

Muscle Cuts Rebound

U.S. pork muscle cut exports recovered in February, up 21% from January, which is off 8.5% compared to last year.

In January and February 2010, exports were down 17%, tallied at 59,896 metric tons (132 million pounds) and valued at $233.5 million, a 15% decline.

The U.S. continues to dominate in the high-value chilled pork market, earning a 73% market share – down only 1% from last year. Canada and Denmark each showed gains, mainly in frozen pork market share, as the overall U.S. share of total imports slipped from 48% last year to 43%, to date.

Several other buyers helped the United States maintain pork export levels through the first two months of 2010:

  • Canada – Exports were up 7% in volume to 24,535 metric tons (54.1 million pounds), and up17% increase in value to $84.3 million.
  • China/Hong Kong – This region purchased 15% more muscle cuts in the two-month span compared to a year ago, totaling 20,591 metric tons (45.4 million pounds) valued at $34 million, an increase of 32%. Hong Kong accounted for 100% of the shipments due mainly to the ongoing H1N1-related market closure in China. February exports totaled 14,535 metric tons (32 million pounds) – the largest monthly volume of pork muscle cut exports to the region since July 2007. China/Hong Kong also was the No. 2 export market for U.S. pork variety meat behind Mexico, with exports up 14% to 25,658 metric tons (56.6 million pounds) valued at $34.4 million, down 4% from a year ago.
  • The ASEAN region – Muscle cut exports to this region were double year-ago levels (up 111%) to 11,247 metric tons (24.8 million pounds) valued at $22.3 million, an increase of 102%. Exports to the Philippines jumped 117% to 8,877 metric tons (19.6 million pounds).
  • South Korea – The impact of the Chile-Korea Free Trade Agreement has been felt this year, with U.S. muscle cut exports in January-February dipping 37% to 10,815 metric tons (23.8 million pounds) valued at $23.6 million, a 41% decline. Korean import data reflects a smaller decline, with imports from the U.S. down 8% in January-February, while imports from all suppliers were up 4%, due mainly to a 65% increase in imports from Chile. Due to Chile-Korea FTA, Chile has benefited from duties of less than 10% vs. a 22-25% paid by U.S. sellers, depending on the pork product.
  • Oceania – Pork muscle cut exports to this region increased 7% to 9,031 metric tons (19.9 million pounds) valued at $19.5 million, which is even with last year. Exports to Australia were up 13% to 8,469 metric tons (18.7 million pounds).
  • Russia – Pork muscle cuts were down 85% to 1,663 metric tons (3.7 million pounds). New export protocols were not brought online until March.

Complete February 2010 export statistics, including beef and lamb, are available on line at www.USMEF.org.