The record pace of U.S. pork exports continues to accelerate and put more money in producers’ pockets, despite intense global competition and other market challenges.
“We can be proud of what we’ve accomplished with exports,” said Brian Zimmerman, a pork producer from Beatrice, Neb., who chairs the Pork Checkoff’s International Trade Committee. “Through the first eight months of 2014, exports made up 28 percent of U.S. pork and pork variety meat production, and the value of exports amounted to $65.29 per hog.”
The numbers reflect an upward trend from 2013, when exports comprised 26 percent of U.S. pork production, and the value of exports equated to $53.95 per head.
Exports to leading markets, such as Mexico, Japan and South Korea, continue to increase. Also, for the first eight months of the year, the U.S. pork export volume was up 6 percent at 1.48 million metric tons, while the value increased 15 percent to $4.53 billion, compared with the same time period in 2013.
“The industry did not expect the volume and value to be up at this point in the year with such high pork prices,” said Becca Hendricks, vice president of international marketing for the Pork Checkoff. “U.S. pork is still very competitive globally, however, and our customers can rely on a consistent supply of high-quality pork.”
Chilled Pork Captures More Market Share
Market access issues have influenced U.S. pork exports in 2014. In particular, the Russian closure of major markets caused significant global trade shifts.
“While export volumes from the United States to Russia were not substantial, the impact has been seen as competitors, such as the European Union (EU) and Canada, had to find customers for product that they had been USPorkExportsFeatureshipping to Russia,” Hendricks noted.
When Russia suspended imports of EU pork in January due to African swine fever, a large increase in European pork entered Asian markets at very low prices. This has driven even more intense global competition in regions such as Asia and Latin America – both key markets for U.S. pork. Still, the United States is gaining an advantage with its chilled pork exports, which have increased in many markets.
“Chilled products bring more value than frozen products,” Zimmerman said. “Plus, when customers buy chilled product, they typically buy on a consistent, 52-week basis rather than a spotty basis.”
Lofty Goals Build Momentum
In early November, the National Pork Board’s International Trade Committee will join other U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) members in Arlington, Va., for the USMEF Strategic Planning Conference. Producers will hear from exporters and USMEF staff around the globe regarding market issues, opportunities and export priorities.
The National Pork Board’s newly adopted strategic plan has set a goal of increasing U.S. pork exports by an average of 9 percent in volume and value annually by 2020.
“It’s a lofty goal, but we’re working toward it by focusing on variety meats, new products and promotions to create loyalty,” Zimmerman said. “We want to keep this export momentum going.”