U.S. pork exports performed well in August, despite the volatility of global markets and growth in the value of the U.S. dollar, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

August pork and pork variety meat sales overseas declined compared to record monthly totals set earlier this year. But the August total of nearly $444 million pushed this year’s export value past the previous record set in 2007. For the first eight months of 2008, pork exports were worth $3.21 billion, compared to $3.15 billion for all of 2007. The export volume of 1.37 million metric tons (3.03 billion pounds) also surpasses 2007’s year-end total.

“This is really an amazing milestone for pork exports,” says USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “We knew pork exports were headed for an all-time high in 2008, but for the industry to break that record before Labor Day is quite an accomplishment.”

January-August pork exports exceeded those of the previous year by 71% in volume and 64% in value. Japan remains the largest value market for U.S. pork at $992.7 million for the year – 29% over 2007. Japan’s volume of 299,277 metric tons (659.8 million pounds) is 25% above last year.

Pork export sales to Mexico have also remained strong, with January-August volume up 35% and value up 46% over last year to 237,655 metric tons (523.9 million pounds) valued at $417.3 million.

Pork exports to Russia climbed 174% in volume and 177% in value this year to 141,446 metric tons (311.8 million pounds) valued at $302 million. August pork sales to Russia set a new monthly record of 28,012 metric tons (61.8 million pounds) valued at $61.9 million.

“Russian processors will continue to need imported pork in order to satisfy quality requirements and meet current demand,” Seng adds. “While there is some uncertainty with regard to the tariff rates and tariff rate quotas we will face, Russia simply doesn’t have the domestic production to satisfy its needs.”

Pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region – this year’s leading destination for U.S. pork in terms of volume – continued its decline in August, with 21,568 metric tons (47.5 million pounds) valued at $37.1 million. This pushed the region’s total for the year to 307,903 metric tons (678 million pounds) valued at $533.8 million. China has increased domestic production, but high domestic production costs are expected to force some producers out of business, meaning China remains a promising market for U.S. pork exports in 2009 and beyond.

Pork exports to Canada through August are up 23% in volume and 20% in value over the same period in 2007.

Pork exports to South Korea have risen 47% in volume and 28% in value over the same period last year, defying critics who predicted some decline in U.S. pork exports with the reintroduction of U.S. beef to South Korea. In fact, the August export volume of 10,530 metric tons (23.2 million pounds) more than doubled figures for August 2007.

For 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has lowered its pork export forecast by 125 million pounds, citing recent reduced shipments.