Prior to restricting poultry-products imports from the U.S. following the discovery of avian flu in Texas, Mexico had already barred U.S. beef in response to bovine spongifrom encephalopathy. USDA’s chief economist says he expects Mexico to ease its ban on U.S. beef “in a matter of days.”

USDA’s 2003 export totals showed that by volume, Mexico was the second-largest export customer for U.S. beef and pork. Japan accounted for 29.4 percent of U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports while Mexico was close behind with 26.3 percent.

For pork and pork variety meats, Japan held the No.1 with 35.6 percent and Mexico was second at 28.9 percent.

It is a widely held view that foreign pork demand increased dramatically after countries such as Japan curbed U.S. and Canadian beef imports on BSE concerns then cut itself off from major poultry suppliers over worries about bird flu.

Chuck Levitt, senior livestock market analyst with Alaron Trading Corp. says lifting the ban might have a minimal impact on pork because of the country’s U.S. poultry restriction, which remains in place. After getting a boost from the cutoff of two of the three top meats in Mexico, pork would resume its normal relation to other meats.