US pork sizzling in the Western Hemisphere

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – Last week when the latest results for 2010 U.S. pork exports through August were compiled, markets in the Western Hemisphere showed considerable strength, according to the US Meat Export Federation.

Japan is still the highest-value market for US pork, already breaking the $1 billion mark for the sixth-consecutive year. But Mexico is the largest volume market at 355,565 metric tons, and is second to Japan in value at $644 million. This is 32% higher than the value pace set in the first eight months of 2009, which was a record year for pork exports to Mexico.

However, the success of U.S. pork in the Western Hemisphere is not limited to Mexico. As Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO explains, exports have also grown impressively this year in Canada, Central and South America and the Caribbean. He adds that the Caribbean could be an even more promising market, if not for high tariffs in certain countries, import restrictions in St. Lucia and a total lack of access in Jamaica.

“We’re really excited about what we have been able to do here in the Western Hemisphere,” Seng said. “There are a lot of new things we are doing. Obviously, Mexico has been .the number-one pork export destination for the last few years as far as on a tonnage basis—and not just working in the major metropolitan areas in Mexico but also in the regional areas in Mexico. I think this will produce tremendous dividends.

“Also, we’ve been very aggressive in working with the major retailers in Mexico,” he added. “All of the major retailers are utilizing US pork and that has been very good as far as imaging our product and also actually adding to the velocity to which we’re selling product into Mexico.

“We have really become aggressive in Central America and these are new markets in some ways,” he continued. “We’ve developed communications, pr and advertising plus promotions in these markets and I think that has generated a lot of interest. We have seen Central America and the Caribbean as very important destinations for us; we’re up almost 34% on a volume basis in Central and South America, Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia.... all of these markets are performing very well for us.”

Seng says there is still room for considerable growth for US pork in the Caribbean if market access restrictions can be overcome in markets such as Jamaica and St. Lucia.

“From the USMEF standpoint, we have identified these areas where these problems are; we’ve conveyed this to our Washington representation,” he said. “These are not big markets as far as individual markets, but when you combine it all together, it’s petty significant. We hope there will be some progress made in some of these access issues in some of these smaller markets.”
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