U.S. pork exports end year on a high note

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – U.S. pork exports continued their rebound from the slump earlier last year, reaching their highest level of 2009 in November, according to statistics recently released by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). For November, total pork (muscle cuts plus variety meat) exports reached 169,547 metric tons (373.8 million lbs.) – essentially even with the volume for November during the record-shattering pace of 2008.

This marked the first time monthly pork exports have reached or exceeded 2008 levels since March of 2009.

Although the export increase is a positive sign that economic indicators around the globe are pointing up, total pork exports remain behind 2008 levels. For the first 11 months of 2009, the U.S. has exported 1.7 million metric tons (3.7 billion lbs.) of pork valued at nearly $4 billion. Pork is down 10% in volume and 13% in value.

“We are devoting significant resources to pork marketing this quarter with the support of $1.35 million in additional funding from the soybean industry at the end of 2009,” said Philip Seng, U.S.M.E.F. president and chief executive officer. “The response from the soybean industry to support pork exports is very gratifying.”

By combining the fund with matching funds from the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development program, third-party contributions and other non-checkoff funds, U.S.M.E.F. has been able to leverage the contributions into a pool of more than $4 million for a concerted pork marketing push in Japan, Mexico and South Korea.

Mexico is still the volume leader for total U.S. pork exports, buying 451,483 metric tons (995.3 million lbs.) valued at more than $672 million through the first 11 months of 2009 – a 30% increase in volume and 9% in value over last year.

Japan remains the value leader for U.S. pork, importing 388,596 metric tons (746.5 million lbs.) valued at more than $1.4 billion – a 7% drop in volume and 1% drop in value compared to last year.

In 2009, the biggest contributors to the decline in U.S. pork exports were China and Russia, both of which imposed barriers to U.S. pork related to the H1N1 virus while attempting to rebuild domestic swine herds, U.S.M.E.F. relayed. Pork exports to the greater Hong Kong/China region are down 39% in volume and 42% in value thus far this year, while exports to Russia are down 38% in volume and 41% in value.

Combined, they account for 80% of the year’s drop-off in the value of U.S. pork exports and 116% of the volume decline.

Last year, the most significant gains pork exports were reported in Mexico, the Philippines (38% increase in volume and 32% in value), Taiwan (38% in volume and 28% in value) and the Caribbean (21%in volume and 13% in value).
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