DENVER — September pork exports closed the third quarter with some very strong momentum led by the two largest export markets: Mexico and Japan, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.). September pork plus pork variety meat exports reached nearly 340 million lbs. valued at about $348 million — their highest level since April.

Although pork exports still trail last year’s record pace, some very positive signs have emerged in recent weeks. U.S.M.E.F. economist Erin Daley said, "We saw the largest pork export volumes since April this year and exports just barely trailed the volume seen in 2008 by about 6%. Still for the year to date January through September, exports were 11% lower than one year ago totaling 1.36 million tonnes with the value of $3.2 billion."

The top markets of Japan and Mexico continued their strong pace during September, she added. "Mexico remained the top growth market and also top volume market for U.S. pork. And from January through September pork exports for that market are up 38%, and at the same time, exports to Japan, the largest value market for U.S. pork, have already exceeded $1 billion — worth $1.6 billion through September, and that’s a 3% increase over last year."

Ms. Daley said other key markets also showed a rebound in September. "Canada saw record-large exports during September at over 17,000 tonnes," she added. "And that moved the cumulative volume to Canada to near year-ago levels, down just 2%. Russia and also the China/Hong Kong region started to recover in September. And we saw the largest volumes we’ve seen basically since early this year."

"To look at exports as a percent of production, we’ve exported over 20% of U.S. pork production every month this year and even though that’s slightly lower from the record we set last year when we were exporting about one quarter of U.S. pork production, this is still well above historic levels."