Even though statistics are just in through October, U.S. pork exports have already broken the record set last year, by 2.5 percent.  From Jan.- Oct. 2004, exports were 34 percent higher in volume compared to 2003 and 38 percent higher in value.

Exports for October came in particularly strong, says Ron Plain, University of Missouri agricultural economist. Total pork exports for October were up nearly 40 percent from a year earlier. Exports to Japan in October were up 28 percent from September and up nearly 35 percent from a year earlier. Pork exports to Japan for January to September were up only 9.1 percent from a year earlier.

For the year, U.S. pork exports were up 12 percent in volume and 20 percent in value to Japan, compared to the first 10 months of 2003. In addition, the U.S. had a fifth consecutive record year for pork exports to Mexico. The tonnage totals for the first 10 months of 2004 exceeded 2003 totals for 12 months for exports to Mexico. Also, the U.S. set a record for value of pork exports to Mexico with $445.7 million, compared to $249.9 million for all of 2003.

Plain says that 1995 was the first year for net exports by the U.S. in over 40 years and exports have grown at something less than 1 percent of production per year in the last 10 years. He says net exports have grown at about 0.5 percent of production per year for the last decade.

“The growth in pork exports has added over 4 billion in gross income to producers since 1987,” says Plain. “A significant portion, possibly one-third or more, of this pork export growth is due to industry efforts through the pork checkoff.”

Assuming the industry was responsible for one-third of the growth in exports, the return per dollar of checkoff dollars spent is nearly 81 to 1, says Plain.