U.S. pork exports in May were up 9 percent in value from a year ago registering $524.3 million, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Through the first five months of the year, pork exports exceeded last year’s record pace by15 percent in value ($2.7 billion).

Japan remains the leading value destination for U.S. pork, with exports through May reaching $869.1 million. This is 10 percent above last year’s record pace, despite a 5 percent decline in volume.

Mexico continues to perform well as the leading volume destination for U.S. pork, and ranks No. 2 in value. While May exports to Mexico were about even with last year, exports through the first five months of the year were 13 percent higher in value at $463.6 million. USMEF recently launched a campaign to build overall demand in Mexico by enhancing the image of pork and broadening its appeal among Mexican consumers.

Exports to Korea were high in 2011, due in part to a foot-and-mouth disease-related shortage of domestic pork and temporary duty-free access for a large volume of imports. U.S. exports to Korea through May stood at $222.8 million, down 19 percent in value from last year’s record pace, exceeding exports in the first five months of any previous year.

“USMEF has reached agreements with several major supermarket chains in Mexico - totaling more than 500 outlets - to help promote pork through advertising and point-of-sale materials and to collect important sales data,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and chief executive officer. “Per capita pork consumption in Mexico is only about 25 pounds per year, compared to 47 pounds in the United States. So we feel there is still great potential for expansion of overall demand, with the U.S. industry positioned to be the primary beneficiary.”

Other pork highlights for January-May 2012 include:

• Despite an upswing in domestic pork supplies and a softening of the hog market in China, exports to the China/Hong Kong region were up 83 percent in value to $389.2 million.

• Exports to Canada were up 19 percent in value to $328.7 million.

• In the first year under a new quota system, exports to Russia are off to an excellent start – 35 percent higher in value to $115 million.

• In the Central and South America region, pork exports were up 16 percent in value to $85 million. This expansion was led by growth in Colombia, where exports more than doubled in value to $15.9 million.

• The controversy over beta agonists continues to create a difficult business climate in Taiwan, where pork exports were down 29 percent in value at $18.2 million. Larger domestic supplies also have impacted this market, as Taiwan’s pork imports from all sources are down nearly 40 percent this year.