The nation’s pork industry is up against tough competition in the export market, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Last year, this competition edged out U.S. pork exports to Japan, a key nation in global pork exports.

“There is no question that Japan is the No. 1 target for every pork exporting nation,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “While the U.S. has enjoyed a dominant share of the pork import market there in recent years, our competitors are working tirelessly to increase their visibility and market share.”

This strong international competition helped to drive down U.S. pork sales in 2013 by 8 percent volume and 5 percent in value. The lost volume to Japan amounts to roughly that of New Zealand’s total pork consumption.

In their Pork Quarterly Report, Rabobank blamed a drop in pork imports to Japan largely on the depreciation of the Yen.   Read more here.

Overall, U.S. red meat exports closed 2013 on a mixed note. Beef exports set a new annual value record at $6 billion while pork exports tumbled below 2012’s record highs.

“2013 presented a new set of challenges,” Seng said. “Last year, the closure of the Russian market to U.S. red meat products and our continued absence from the dynamic beef market in the People’s Republic of China stand out. And there were challenges in other markets, ranging from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia. The industry is focused on these challenges and USMEF is targeting the markets where we have the best chance of succeeding and creating a positive return for American producers and exporters.”

The data also showed other export markets, including:

  • Mexico set a new monthly record for December with 64,818 metric tons (MT) of U.S. pork purchased for $133.3 million, up 34 percent. Mexico remained the top export market in volume. Export value to Mexico trailed only to Japan.
  • Central/South American continued to trend upward, setting new sales records by strong growth in sales to Colombia, Chile and Honduras. The region finished 2013 up 34 percent in both export volume and value.
  • The ASEAN region broke its 2010 record for U.S. pork purchases, driven by strong performances in the Philippines and Singapore.

Click here to read the full report.

While the U.S. and global pork industry had a general good 2013, Rabobank sees a steady price outlook for the market thanks to lower feed costs, despite the unknown impact of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  Download the Rabobank report here.