U.S. pork exports just completed another record year in sales. While some are quick to point to U.S. beef's closed markets and various tribulations as contributing factors to pork's success, that false short of reality. In fact, 2006 set the 15th consecutive year of record U.S. pork exports, so the pace was well established before beef encountered its challenges.

"There has been some substitution of pork for beef in South Korea, but not as much as is generally perceived," Erin Daley, U.S. Meat Export Federation research manager Erin Daley told Meatingplace.com. "To satisfy beef demand, Korea has been importing from Australia rather than the United States"

According to USMEF data, U.S. pork exports for January through October 2006, the latest figures available, amounted to 1,026 metric tons valued at nearly $2.316 billion. Projections suggest that total pork sales in 2006 will reach 1,225 million tons. Those sales in 2005 totaled 1,158 tons.

"These results reflect the fact that the U.S. pork industry has become more export-oriented," says Daley. "The industry realizes that in order to grow, it's going to have to look to where 95 percent of the demand is, and that's foreign markets." 
Meanwhile, the U.S. beef industry continues to struggle with key Asian markets. Last year's exports found help in brisk sales in Mexico and Canada, according USMEF. For the first 10 months of 2006, U.S beef exports increased 44 percent from 2005 by volume and 58 percent by value, with Canada and Mexico logging 136 percent and 62 percent gains respectively.

The Asian markets countinue to be frustrating for the U.S. beef industry. Specifically, Japan doesn't accept U.S. beef from animals older than 20 months. "If Japan can be persuaded to relax its 20-month rule, it will prompt a very strong recovery for U.S. exporters," notes Daley.

Source: The Meatingplace.com, U.S. Meat Export Federation