There is positive news regarding U.S. pork exports to China. All U.S. federally inspected meat establishments will continue to be eligible for export to China after May 1, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). The only exception will be those establishments specifically delisted by China.

The order, issued by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, is based on China's prior approval of the USDA food safety system. The new regulatory order issued in China requires all foreign food-processing plants to be registered in China by May 1.

USMEF Export Services Director Kevin Smith says the announcement represents a very positive outcome for the U.S. pork industry because it will not require a complicated, plant-by-plant registration process. While U.S. pork continues to face some market access challenges in China, ongoing discussions with regulatory officials in China have led to progress in certain areas.

Among those issues are China’s ban on U.S. pork produced with ractopamine – an FDA-approved feed ingredient that improves efficiency in pork production – subsidies China provides its domestic pork producers and a value-added tax it imposes on imports.

Chinese purchases of U.S. pork have increased largely as a consequence of the Chinese pork sector’s serious, ongoing problems in controlling various lethal swine diseases, which have led to severe food inflation.

Through February, U.S. pork exports to China, including variety meat, totaled 137.7 million pounds valued at $122.3 million. For the China/Hong Kong region, exports totaled 172.4 million pounds valued at $158.2 million. While the pace of U.S. pork exports to China has slowed from the record volumes recorded late last year, China still makes up a key component of the U.S. industry’s global export picture.   

While China is currently 98 percent self-sufficient in pork production, even a small increase in U.S. exports would greatly benefit producers. If China decides to import just an additional 1 percent of its total pork consumption, it could mean an additional 500,000 metric tons of U.S. pork exports, valued at $1 billion, according to analysis by Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.

So far in 2012, the China/Hong Kong region ranks third among international destinations for U.S. pork in terms of both volume and value.