Year-over-year export statistics can sometimes be deceiving, and U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Economist Erin Borror says that’s definitely the case with regard to this year’s U.S. pork exports to South Korea.

Through April, pork exports to Korea are down about 30 percent in volume (67,000 metric tons) and 20 percent in value ($192.7 million) compared to last year’s pace. However, 2011 was a very unusual year in Korea as its swine herd was decimated by foot-and-mouth disease and domestic pork was in extremely short supply. As Borror points out, this year’s exports are by far the second-highest totals ever recorded to Korea – easily outpacing the pre-2011 records set in 2008.

Borror also notes that analysts should be careful not to underestimate the benefits the U.S. pork industry will derive from the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The agreement just took effect in mid-March, so its full impact won’t be felt for some time. Borror points out that the FTA is critical to the U.S. industry’s ability to maintain a level playing field with Europe, which is a major provider of frozen pork to Korea. It will also deliver a significant advantage over Canada, which currently has no agreement with Korea, with regard to chilled pork.