DES MOINES, IOWA – For 2009, U.S. pork exports finished on a positive note, which has helped jumpstart an upward trend in 2010, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.). U.S. pork exports closed the year with an 8% increase in volume and a 6% increase in value for December, compared to year-ago totals.

Pork exports for the calendar year registered the second-highest total in history, according to statistics compiled by the U.S.M.E.F.

In total, U.S. pork and pork variety-meat exports added up to 22.5% of U.S. production in 2009. U.S. pork outpaced the performance of global competitors, which fell 15% in value in 2009, led by a 22% drop for European Union pork producers.

“It has been a challenging year for pork producers, but it’s encouraging to see consumer confidence returning and very positive signs of growth,” said Philip Seng, president and chief executive officer of the U.S.M.E.F., which is responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry and is funded in part by the Pork Checkoff.

U.S. pork and pork variety-meat exports in 2009 surpassed 2007 levels by 43% in volume and 37% in value. Mexico was the volume leader with 503,503 metric tons (1.11 billion lbs.) valued at $762.35 million – an increase of 27% and 10%, respectively, compared to 2008. U.S.M.E.F. points out this record-breaking performance was particularly impressive considering the country’s sluggish economy and a temporary mid-year disruption in pork demand due to H1N1 influenza.

U.S. pork recorded another good year in Japan, falling just short ($1.54 billion versus $1.545 billion) of the value record set in 2008. U.S.M.E.F. relays this was achieved despite an increase of about 5% in Japan’s domestic pork production. The U.S. share of Japan’s imported pork market also reached an all-time high of 46%.

“Through our partnership, the Pork Checkoff and U.S.M.E.F. are accomplishing goals that we couldn't do on our own,” said Tim Bierman, a pork producer from Larrabee, Iowa, and president of the National Pork Board.

In addition to Mexico, single-year pork/pork variety-meat export records were established in 2009 in these markets:

• Taiwan, up 35% in volume and 26% in value over 2008.

• The Philippines, up 44% in volume and 41% in value.

• Australia, up 10% in volume and 3% in value.

• New Zealand, up 11% in volume and 1% in value.

• Central and South America, up 12% in volume and 14% in value.

Exports to the Caribbean also set a record, increasing 18% in volume and 10% in value over 2008, according to U.S.M.E.F.