According to the May issue of the USDA's Livestock, Dairy and Poultry report, March pork exports were almost 491 million pounds, the highest quantity of U.S. pork products ever exported in one month. March exports were almost 33 percent higher than a year earlier, with the five largest destination countries being Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Canada, and China. First-quarter U.S. pork exports were more than 1.24 billion pounds, 19.2 percent larger than in the same period last year. A listing of the 10 largest foreign destinations for exported U.S. pork products follows.

Source: USDA/ERS,

As the listing indicates, Japan remains the most important foreign destination, with quarterly exports increasing more than 20 percent year-over-year. The increase is most likely due, in part, to the very strong exchange-rate value of the Japanese yen vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar during the quarter. The yen’s value probably helped to partially offset higher U.S. pork prices. The dramatic increase in South Korean demand for U.S. pork is due to recent FMD outbreaks in that country’s swine sector, as well as to relaxation of import restrictions following the outbreaks. U.S. exports to South Korea are expected to abate later this year as domestic production begins to rebound. While exports to China increased significantly in the first quarter, it is worth noting that concurrent reductions in shipments to Hong Kong offset almost three-quarters of that increase. Exports in 2012 are expected to be about 4.8 billion pounds, an increase of about 2 percent. As in the past, most of the export growth next year is expected to come from Asia.

First-quarter pork imports were 201 million pounds, about 1 percent ahead of the first quarter of 2010. Canada accounted for 78 percent of U.S. imports compared with 81 percent last year. Smaller exporting countries—Mexico, the U.K, Ireland, and the Netherlands--appear to have picked up shares of the U.S. import market, at Canada’s expense. First-quarter shipments from Canada to the United States were 156 million pounds, down 2.5 percent from the same period last year. Denmark accounted for 10 percent of U.S. imports in the first quarter, the same as in the same period of 2010. U.S. imports from Denmark were almost 21 million pounds, up 5.8 percent from last year. In 2012, imports are expected to be roughly the same as in 2011, or about 895 million pounds.

The United States imported 1.452 million head of swine in the first quarter of this year, about the same as last year. Almost all imported swine come from Canada. The ‘mix’ of animals imported in the first quarter differed somewhat from last year, with year-over-year increases in segregated early-weaned animals and breeding animals. Imports of feeder pigs weighing 7 kilograms and higher and slaughter hogs were lower in the first quarter compared with last year. Swine imports from Canada in 2012 are expected to be slightly higher than this year. The modest expected increase is largely due to indications that the Canadian swine sector’s deep contraction might be bottoming out. Statistics Canada reported in April that the breeding herd of a major producing/exporting province, Ontario, had expanded strongly as of April 1st (6.7 percent) after having increased modestly in January (0.88 percent). Before January 2011, Ontario’s breeding herd had declined in every quarter since April 2005. Ontario pork producers have also stated intentions to increase farrowings, year-over-year, in the April-June and July-September quarters of this year.

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