Exports of U.S. pork in October highest since March

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER — Pork exports continued growing in October. Exports of 164,092 metric tons (361.8 million lbs.) represented the second-largest monthly volume this year, while pork muscle cut exports achieved their highest volume of 2009 at 128,392 metric tons (283.1 million lbs.), according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Year-to-date exports are down 11% in volume (to 1.53 million metric tons or 3.37 billion lbs.) and 13% in value (to $3.57 billion) compared to 2008, the highest ever year for pork exports. But they remain nearly 50% higher than the second-best year on record, 2007. This year, exports account for 22.3% of total production compared to 24% last year, while the value of exports equates to $38.17 per hog slaughtered compared to last year’s $42.31.

"The most recent data shows pork exports from the European Union are down nearly 20% and Mexico’s are down 17 percent," said Philip Seng, U.S.M.E.F. president and chief executive officer.

Among major exporters, only Brazil and Chile are up, and a sharp drop in the export value of pork drove those figures from those countries. Chile is rebounding from dioxin-related market access issues that hampered it in 2008, and it is benefiting from its free-trade agreement with South Korea, which limits duties on Chilean pork to about half of those paid on U.S. pork.

For the first 10 months of 2009, pork exports to Mexico were up 33% in volume (409,628 metric tons or 903.1 million lbs.) and 10% in value ($606.1 million) compared year-ago totals. It is the No. 1 volume market for U.S. pork exports.

Japan remains the No. 1 value market for U.S. pork. While export volume (355,323 metric tons or 783.4 million lbs.) is down slightly through October, the value of nearly $1.3 billion still exceeds last year’s pace by about 1%. October exports to Japan increased by nearly 20% in both volume and value over September and exceeded the 2009 monthly average in terms of both volume and value.

Despite a continued ban on direct exports to mainland China, October pork exports to the Greater China/Hong Kong region reached their highest level of the year. U.S. pork also overcame a variety of market access issues by recording a strong month in Russia. For January through October, however, these markets are still down more than 40% compared to 2008.

In October, pork exports to the ASEAN region achieved their second-highest monthly total of the year, with the Philippines accounting for most of the region’s growth. Results were similar in Korea, where pork exports still trail 2008 by about 19%, but October exports were the highest since May.

Though down slightly from an all-time record in September, pork exports to Taiwan recorded another solid month and have increased by 38% in volume and 27% in value for the year versus 2008.

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