US pork exports weathers H1N1 crisis

14-07-2009 | |

While May was expected to be the month in which US pork exports were most affected by A-H1N1 influenza, the impact has not been as negative as some analysts had predicted, according to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

May pork plus pork variety meat exports totalled 143,682 metric tonnes (316.8 million pounds) valued at $342.6 million. This is down 9% in value and 9.5% in volume from April, and down a substantial 24% in value and 27% in volume compared to May 2008. But spring of 2008 was a historic high point for US pork exports, and a repeat of those results was not anticipated even before A-H1N1 influenza hampered demand and led to significant market closures for US pork.

©“Certainly we don’t like to see a decline in pork exports for any reason,” said USMEF Chairman Jon Caspers, a pork producer from Swaledale, Iowa. “But considering the blow we were dealt by A-H1N1 influenza, on top of an already shaky global economy, the May results were not as lackluster as some had feared. But now we need to put these trade suspensions and other barriers behind us and work aggressively to ensure that these effects don’t linger.”

Some countries either fully or partially closed to US pork during May, and a few markets – including China – remain closed. But Caspers was quick to praise the trading partners that lived up to their obligations by remaining open to US pork and worked to dispel misinformation that attempted to connect pork consumption with A-H1N1 influenza.

“USMEF worked very closely with the governments of Mexico, Japan, Korea and many other countries to keep these markets open and to ensure that their trade policies remained science-based,” he said. “Despite considerable pressure in some of these countries, most remained fully open. Consumer demand took a hit in the early stages of the outbreak, but seems to have bounced back fairly quickly as people become better informed about the safety of US pork.”

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