Des Moines, Iowa-- In 2011, U.S. pork exports reached a record $6.1 billion accounting for 27 percent of U.S. pork production and contributing $56 to the price of each hog sold by pork producers. “This excellent performance is the result of efforts to expand and maintain market access to international customers,” said R.C. Hunt, president, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and Wilson, N.C. pork producer.

NPPC provided a trade update Thursday at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines.

Hunt cited the success of free-trade agreements signed with Panama, Colombia and South Korea which are expected to increase pork exports by a total of $770 million, increase hog price by $11 per head, and generate 10,200 new jobs.

“The future of the pork industry, and of U.S. pork producers, depends on maintaining free and fair trade with international markets,” Hunt said.

Challenges remain in opening new markets and maintaining export levels with other trading partners, however. Significant barriers to further increases in U.S. pork exports, such as sanitary/phytosanitary (SPS) objections and import duties, remain in effect in other important export markets. “Vietnam, for example, represents great potential for U.S. pork, but these barriers remain in that market,” Hunt said.

If these trade barriers with Vietnam were removed, Hunt estimates exports of U.S. pork would increase by $600 million. The NPPC is urging the Obama administration to press countries to remove barriers to trade through Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. In 2011, the eight countries in the TPP effort purchased $294 million of U.S. pork but, like Vietnam, several of the nations, maintain trade barriers that limit pork imports. “We must level the playing field with these trading partners,” Hunt said.

Canada, Mexico and Japan also have requested to be included in the TPP negotiations. While NPPC supports the inclusion of Japan and Mexico, it opposes Canada’s inclusion due to the country’s subsidies to its pork industry.

Significant SPS issues also remain with Russia limiting trade with that nation. “In the coming weeks, Russia will become a member of the World Trade Organization,” Hunt says. “Before that happens, NPPC would like to see a binding, bilateral agreement with Russia that addresses the current SPS issues.”