DENVER – For the first time in history, US beef and pork exports could each surpass the $5 billion mark in 2011 – providing global demand remains strong, according to the US Meat Export Federation. Beef exports through June were 25 percent higher in volume and 40 percent higher in value than in the first six months of 2010. First-half pork exports show year-over-year increases of 14 percent in volume and 19 percent in value.

There are three strong growth areas for US beef exports – Latin America, the Middle East and Canada, said Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for global marketing. Exports to Canada through June were 23 percent higher than last year in terms of volume (192.5 million lbs.) and 44 percent higher in value ($463.9 million). Exports to Central and South America were 51 percent higher in volume (28.2 million lbs.) than last year and 71 percent higher in value ($35.2 million), led by strong growth in Chile, Peru, Colombia and Guatemala. Beef exports to the Middle East also continued to post strong growth, with volume (176.8 million lbs.) up 38 percent from last year and value ($153.7 million) up more than 50 percent.

South Korea and Japan have been the biggest drivers of US pork export growth this year, Halstrom said. Through June, US pork exports to South Korea reached 271 million lbs. valued at $301.5 million. This is a 145 percent increase in volume over the first half of last year and nearly triple the value. Coming off a record value year in 2010, pork exports to Japan have increased another 10 percent in volume (550 million lbs.) and 13 percent in value ($944.2 million) in 2011.

“First-half results were very good,” Halstrom said. “We’re up 25 percent in volume, nearly 1.3 billion lbs. and up 40 percent in value over, more than $2.5 billion. We had a record year in value last year in excess of $4 billion in value and in 2011 we have our sights targeted on possibly hitting the $5 billion mark.

“Latin American countries are doing very well,” he added. “Volume is up 51 percent for the first six months and volume is up around 71 percent. Another region that continues to see growth is the Middle East region, up 38 percent in volume and 51 percent in value. There are several factors in Canada. We have 23 percent volume growth year to date, that’s 44 percent in value growth up in Canada and that’s another trend that’s just continuing.”

US pork exports are also on a record pace, driven in large part by growth by South Korea and Japan, Halstrom said.

“Pork and pork variety meats total were up 14 percent in volume and 19 percent in value,” he said. “South Korea is up 145 percent in volume and 186 percent in value. Of course, we had the issues with foot-and-mouth disease there so the domestic supply is still in recovery mode. Japan is our No. 1 value market it’s up 10 percent in volume and 13 percent in value.”