WASHINGTON – Volumes of US pork exports were slightly higher in September compared to the comparable month in 2011, according to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). However, the value of pork exports through the third quarter of 2012 was ahead of last year’s record-setting pace.

September pork exports reached 183,853 metric tons, a slight increase over the 2011 total, according to USMEF. Export value declined 6 percent to $505 million; however it was about 2 percent higher than the August value of $495.5 million.

For January through September, pork exports gained 2 percent in volume at 1.657 million metric tons and up 6 percent in value to $4.6 billion, USMEF said. Exports were to 23.6 percent of muscle cut production and 27 percent when including both muscle cuts and variety meat (compared to 2011 ratios of 22.8 percent and 27 percent). Export value was $56.16 per head slaughtered, 4.5 percent above the per-head average established during the comparable period in 2011.

USMEF said September beef production declined 9 percent and exports fell 17 percent in volume to 90,538 metric tons due to fewer production days this year. September export value eased 4 percent to $442.8 million, but remained significantly higher on a per-head-of-fed-slaughter basis — increasing 7 percent to $227.65.

Mexico was the strongest market for September pork exports at 51,510 metric tons, an increase of 24 percent, with a value at $92.8 million (an increase of 7 percent). For the year, exports to Mexico were 15 percent higher in volume (443,442 metric tons) and 11 percent higher in value ($820 million). Mexico is the leading volume market for US pork and ranks second in value to Japan, USMEF said.

September exports to Japan declined but remained on pace for an excellent year, according to USMEF. Through the first nine months of 2012, export value to Japan gained 4 percent to $1.495 billion despite a 6 percent decline in volume to 344,362 metric tons.

Exports to Canada posted grew 14 percent in the January-September period with a volume of 172,812 metric tons and value climbing 16 percent to $628.2 million. September export volume was a record at 22,229 metric tons, breaking the 2011 record set in August.

Exports to Central and South America continue to surge, led by outstanding growth in Colombia, USMEF said. Exports through September were 20 percent higher in both volume (60,739 metric tons) and value ($154.5 million) compared to 2011. For Colombia, exports advanced 74 percent in volume (12,350 metric tons) and 110 percent in value ($35.1 million). September export volume to Colombia also set a monthly record at 2,131 metric tons.

January-September exports to the China/Hong Kong region were ahead of last year’s pace in both volume (313,425 metric tons, up 4 percent) and value ($632.4 million, up 21 percent). China’s domestic pork inventory, however, is much higher than a year ago and exports in the fourth quarter are unlikely to match last year. Accordingly, September exports of 30,788 metric tons were the highest since May but were still 35 percent lower than the September 2011 volume, according to USMEF.