DENVER – Although 2010 has been a strong year for US pork exports, maintaining export growth is an ongoing challenge in an industry in which competitors are becoming increasingly aggressive. The US Meat Export Federation recently held a New Opportunities Conference in which USMEF foreign office directors, exporters, traders and other industry experts were asked to identify new opportunities for US pork throughout the world.

Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for marketing and communications, explained during a recent presentation to USMEF Pork Committee members that while some of the opportunities identified involve relatively new markets, such as Central America, Kazakhstan and South Africa, much of the growth potential for US pork actually lies in achieving further penetration in mainstay markets such as Japan, Mexico and Canada. These are markets in which the US industry is already active, but may need to increase its focus on certain sectors, products and geographic regions.

“We challenged our foreign-office directors to identify the opportunities or the additional revenue that’s out there in their regions and we came up with 30 global initiatives worldwide,” Halstrom said. “That represented 280 million lbs. incremental in year one and 559 million lbs. over the entire life of the project.”

Although all of the initiatives identified cannot be funded, Halstrom explained that some opportunities identified in relatively new markets. But much of the growth potential for US pork actually lies in achieving further penetration in mainstay markets.

“Japan...the example there would be a refocus on the frozen-pork sector for further processing,” Halstrom explained. “It’s not a new sector by any means. But we have about a 33% market share on the frozen side. So, even if we could get a 4% or 5% increase in share at the expense of the other guys, that translates into 80,000 or 90,000 metric tons. That’s a lot of meat.

“Canada is not a new market,” he added. “But it is a new focus for USMEF. And this is a 200,000 metric ton market so it’s huge and it’s growing and it’s going to be a market that’s going to be relying more and more on imports from the US.

“Mexico is another good one,” Halstrom continued. “There’s a section in northwest Mexico that is dominated by Canadian supply. There are a lot of mid-size importers and distributors in the northwest part of Mexico, which is also the exporting region of Mexico. So, they’re exporting out to Japan and other countries and they’re importing a lot of Canadian meat into that section —that’s an area we think we can focus on for some incremental pork volume.”