US pork exports finished the first quarter 8 percent higher in volume (598,058 metric tons) and 20 percent higher in value ($1.66 billion) than last year’s record pace, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
March pork export volume of 198,972 metric tons was 8 percent lower than a year ago, but up 6 percent from February 2012. Export value of $570.5 million was 3 percent higher than last year and up 8 percent from the previous month. These results were led by excellent growth in the China/Hong Kong region and by strong performance in Mexico, Japan and Canada.
“A 20 percent increase in pork export value for the first quarter is extraordinary, especially considering the record performance of last year,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “On the beef side, market access issues and price sensitivity are making volume growth difficult in some markets, but we are pleased to see export value remaining above last year’s record pace, even on smaller volumes.”
Mexico remains the leading market for US pork on a volume basis, with first quarter exports up 17 percent in both volume (162,721 metric tons) and value ($299.7 million). Exports to Japan, which nearly reached the $2 billion mark in 2011, were up just 1 percent in volume (122,899 metric tons) but also achieved a 17 percent increase in value to $530.6 million. Exports to the China Hong/Kong region, which came on very strong in the second half of 2011, were 30 percent higher in volume in the first quarter (115,642 metric tons) and surged 82 percent in value to $234.9 million.
Other first quarter market highlights included:
“While domestic supplies are recovering in Korea, we are still creating new opportunities for U.S. pork.” Seng said. “The lower tariffs made possible by the Korea-U.S. FTA will enhance the competitiveness of U.S. pork in terms of price, and help us further expand the presence of chilled pork and value-added pork products in the retail and foodservice sectors. These marketing strategies have proven very effective in Japan, and I believe we can have similar success across north Asia.”