“The growth engine for the U.S. meat industry will continue to be the export market,” says Philip Seng, U.S. Meat Export Federation president. He cites a weak U.S. dollar and competitive pricing for U.S. exports as reasons leading to the high pork export sales.

U.S. pork production is running 12 percent over last year, making it impossible to raise prices to cover the rising production costs. However, USMEF estimates that without pork exports, the U.S. market would have to absorb the equivalent of an additional 60,000 hogs per day.

At 164.7 million pounds, the China/Hong Kong market was the largest U.S. pork and pork variety meats importer, on a volume basis, for the January/February period. That’s a 287 percent increase over the same period in 2007. Japan, at 143 million pounds, remains No. 1 on a value basis at $210.9 million, or 31 percent of the total pork and pork variety meats export value.

Other important U.S. pork export markets include Mexico at 122 million pounds and Canada at 59 million pounds for the two-month period. Russia is an increasingly important growth country for U.S. pork, showing a healthy 164 percent increase to 59 million pounds during the first two months of 2008.

South Korea, at 53 million pounds, was down 2 percent, but February’s sales were larger than any monthly volume in 2007, with the exception of December.