The United States exported 10.89 percent of its pork production in May, which is the highest percentage ever exported, according to USDA data.

U.S. commercial pork production totaled 1.555 billion pounds in May, with exports grabbing 169.269 million pounds of that total. During the same time, the United States imported less pork.

The combination of larger exports and smaller imports in May resulted in 6.6 percent less pork being available in the domestic market. For January through May, there was 2.9 percent less pork available in the domestic market compared to the same period a year ago.

“The reduced domestic supply of pork during the first five months of 2001 has added at least 5 percent to live hog prices. That in turn has added at least $235 million to pork producers’ incomes so far this year,” says Glenn Grimes, University of Missouri agricultural economist.

While U.S. pork exports have been steadily rising for several years, the export numbers for the early part of this year increased because of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Europe. With Europe resuming its pork exports and the strong U.S. dollar, continuing the trend of rising U.S. pork exports will be a challenge later this year.

The National Pork Board’s goal is to increase U.S. pork exports by 15 percent annually. NPB is expected to meet that goal this year, even if pork exports only hold steady from now until year’s end. That’s because pork export volume increased 33 percent during the first five months of 2001.

USDA data shows Japan continues to be the biggest buyer of U.S. pork, which purchased 49.9 percent of the U.S. pork exports through May. During that same period, Mexico purchased 18.8 percent of the U.S. pork export quota, Canada 11.3 percent and Russia 6 percent.