US pork industry expects big year in Asia

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – Although still waiting for December results to be announced, US pork exports have already achieved much success in Asia during the past year, according to the US Meat Export Federation. For the third consecutive year, Japan passed the $1.5 billion mark in pork export value and could break the all-time single-year record ($1.545 billion) established in 2008. Exports to China also bounced back after being absent for much of 2009 due to H1N1 influenza restrictions. Other markets that performed exceptionally well include Singapore and the Philippines, while exports were lower to South Korea and Taiwan.

Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for marketing and communications, has just returned from a staff conference in Tokyo in which directors from USMEF’s Asian offices discussed their major pork promotions and initiatives for 2011. He said USMEF has identified key marketing opportunities for the upcoming year.

“If you look at Japan, there are a lot of opportunities on the retail side focusing in on higher-value products — back ribs, spareribs, tenderloins,” he says. “They are buying a lot of high-end items and the value they’re paying is much higher than we get here in the US. So, there are several reasons to maintain our presence there but they main one is there’s more to get. There are a lot of sub markets, so to speak, where we constantly focused on the larger retailers, for example. There are a lot of retailers in that mid-level tier that are not particularly strong in US pork and that’s an area we’re looking at going after.”

“When you look at S. Korea, they have several things going on there,” he adds. “And one is an initiative that really focuses on chilled pork sales into the retail sectors. Our goal is to get really aggressive and look at year-round chilled retail [pork sales into Korea.

Additional focus is also in the restaurant/foodservice area for further-processed pork items. Halstrom said. “If you look at the entire Asian region, there are two other initiatives we are really looking at,” he added. “Raw material for further pork processing [is one]. Boneless picnic meat, for example, is an item we feel that is utilized and that spreads to several countries – China, the Philippines, Japan and Korea, just to name a few.”

“Last but not least – this is something we kicked-off late last year but we’re really getting the global pork butt initiative moving across all sectors of Asia,” he continued. “So, we’re getting a lot of traction there and that’s going to be an initiative that’s going to run through the whole year in 2011.”
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