Iowa State University professor Dermot Hayes (left) discusses issues with Dale Reicks, a pork producer from Lawler, Iowa, after an export seminar at World Pork Expo June 4 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Iowa State University professor Dermot Hayes (left) discusses issues with Dale Reicks, a pork producer from Lawler, Iowa, after an export seminar at World Pork Expo June 4 in Des Moines, Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa – The pork industry was reminded how important exports are to U.S. producers at a World Pork Expo seminar June 4.

Iowa State University professor Dermot Hayes outlined the latest pork export trends and stressed the success of recent free trade agreements.

He said Mexico remains the No.1 pork market by volume and Japan No.1 by value, but there are other countries grabbing far more exports than in the past.

For one, Hayes said, was Singapore, which increased its U.S. pork shipments by 475% in the first quarter compared to the first quarter of 2013, placing it in the top 10 export markets. Also, Colombia has increased its imports by 164% in the first quarter compared to last year, also jumping it to the top 10.

“Trade creates wealth for both parties,” he said of trade in general.

Russian imports have dropped off significantly from both the U.S. and the European Union -- the U.S.’s largest competitor -- due to protectionist leanings of the Putin regime, Hayes said.

While Japan only imports high-value muscle cuts, many of the U.S. export markets take cuts that American consumers rarely buy, such as feet, heads and organs. Those products remain a huge value for U.S. producers since they have little market here.

U.S. producers also enjoy the lowest input costs of any of their export competitors, Hayes said, making the U.S. the lowest cost, high value producer worldwide.

Many European countries remain difficult markets for U.S. producers due to their general paranoia over GMOs, he said.

Hayes also pointed to China as the biggest potential market. While China is by far the world’s largest producer of pork, consumer demand vastly outpaces local production. China imports were up 16% in the first quarter vs. 2013, but the potential is enormous.

Overall, U.S. producers export 24-27% of their products.