WASHINGTON – US pork exports in May increased 3 percent in volume and were 9 percent higher in value, according to US Department of Agriculture statistics compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork export volume was 186,809 metric tons and was valued at $524.3 million. Pork exports surpassed the 2011 record pace by 6 percent in volume (968,485 metric tons) and 15 percent in value ($2.7 billion) through the first five months of 2012, according to USMEF.

Beef export volume declined 13 percent to 95,221 metric tons compared to May 2011 and stood 10 percent lower (456,343 metric tons) through the first five months of the year despite May being the strongest month so far in 2012 for US beef exports, USMEF said. Beef export value in May ($471.1 million) was 4 percent higher compared to 2011, which kept year-to-date export value ($2.19 billion) 5 percent ahead of last year’s record pace.

US pork export value is increasing to every major destination with the exceptions of South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines. Exports to Korea were extremely high in 2011, due in part to a foot-and-mouth disease-related shortage of domestic pork and temporary duty-free access for a large volume of imports. US exports to Korea through May declined 32 percent in volume to 77,790 metric tons and declined 19 percent in value to $222.8 million. But these totals still exceeded exports in the first five months of any previous year, according to USMEF.

Mexico continues to perform well as the leading volume destination for US pork, and ranks No. 2 in value. Exports through the first five months of 2012 were 15 percent higher in volume (254,059 metric tons) and 13 percent higher in value ($463.6 million), while May exports to Mexico were flat.

“USMEF has reached agreements with several major supermarket chains in Mexico — totaling more than 500 outlets — to help USMEF promote pork through advertising and point-of-sale materials and to collect important sales data for evaluating the effectiveness of the campaign,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “Per capita pork consumption in Mexico is only about 25 pounds per year, compared to 47 pounds in the United States. So we feel there is still great potential for expansion of overall demand, with the US industry positioned to be the primary beneficiary.”

May was the first month in which any BSE-related decline could be detected in export statistics, USMEF said. The announcement of the fourth BSE case in the US came on April 24. May beef exports did not reveal a major impact, though global totals were likely affected to some degree by the market closure in Saudi Arabia and negative media coverage in some Asian markets.

“All things considered, we are pleased with the manner in which beef exports have weathered the most recent BSE case,” Seng said. “With the exception of Saudi Arabia, we have not suffered any significant setbacks in terms of market access. And though we expected consumer interest to slow temporarily in markets such as Korea, the May export results were actually quite strong.”

Seng said that while year-to-date exports to Korea were down 24 percent in volume (58,143 metric tons) and 17 percent in value ($273.1 million), May results showed a 5 percent increase in volume and a 13 percent increase in value. Main factors influencing US beef exports to Korea in 2012 included an oversupply of domestic beef and a slumping Korean currency, Seng said. He noted that Australia’s beef exports to Korea also declined by about one-third compared to 2012.