China demand drives US pork export gains

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON – Declining pork production in China lifted exports of US pork during May, the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reported.

For the month, exports to Hong Kong surged 85 percent to 58,007 metric tons which is the third-largest gain on record and the largest gain since 2011. Meanwhile, the value of US pork exports to China jumped 87 percent to $111.1 million.

“The US industry, as well as the other major pork exporters, has certainly benefited from the shortfall in China’s domestic production,” USMEF CEO Philip Seng said in a statement. “However, falling hog prices in China suggest that demand for imported pork could begin to cool, so it was vitally important that exports to other key markets also gained momentum in May. USMEF is redoubling efforts to educate processors and other end users in China on the attributes of US pork, so they fully understand the value US pork delivers even after China’s domestic production rebounds.”

Exports of US pork to Mexico were the largest in six months, according to USMEF data. Exports climbed 7 percent to 57,050 mt while value advanced 10 percent to $104.7 million. However, exports from January through May lagged last year’s record pace by 7 percent in volume (270,410 mt) and 9 percent in value ($460.6 million). Other markets for US pork that posted strong results included Australia, the Philippines and Honduras.

While China and other key markets drove growth in US pork exports, Japan and Korea provided a different story. Exports of US pork to Japan retreated 15 percent in volume to 159,983 mt and 13 percent in value to $611.5 million. USMEF attributed the declines to exports of frozen pork, which plunged 42 percent to 59,399 mt. But an offsetting factor was exports of chilled US pork, which climbed 16 percent to 89,592 mt and are on a record pace this year. The rise of chilled pork exports led USMEF to direct more promotional efforts on chilled cuts.

“We are particularly focused on educating retailers, who are focused on quality, about the positive attributes of chilled US pork versus the competition,” Seng explained. “USMEF’s spring promotional campaigns involved thousands of retail outlets, from both national and regional chains, and in many cases sales of US chilled pork more than doubled as a result.”

In Korea, pork exports dropped 35 percent to 62,078 mt, while the value of pork exports fell 44 percent to $158.9 million. But what the US lost in volume and value was gained through increased market share — imports from all suppliers slowed as Korea’s domestic swine herds rebounded from an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.

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