There is much concern over the recent slump in the U.S. economy, but economic troubles overseas may turn out to be more damaging to the U.S. pork industry.

The Japanese economy has been dragging for the last year, which doesn’t bode well for U.S. pork exports. “Japan’s in real trouble and that could be every bit as big as losing a significant amount of U.S. demand for pork,” says Wayne Purcell, Virginia Tech livestock economist.

Exports to Japan accounted for nearly 36 percent of total U.S. pork exports in 2000. Perhaps more telling is the fact that sales to Japan account for 57.7 percent of U.S. pork exports’ total value in 2000, due to Japan’s taste for high-quality pork.

In addition, pork exports have hit Japan’s “import safety trigger,” which means U.S. pork imports have reached a level causing an increase in the minimum price for those imports. This makes all U.S. pork imports more expensive. The trigger went into effect in August and will remain in place until March, says Chris Hurt, agricultural economist with Purdue University.

Still, pork may not take the hardest hit from the Japanese economic struggles. The U.S. beef industry exports roughly half its product to Japan, according to Purcell, so both industries may find itself trying to push more product domestically.