The United States and China have reached an agreement to reopen the Chinese market to U.S. pork imports, action that should help struggling U.S. pork producers, said the National Pork Producers Council. Pork trade will resume immediately once both sides finalize export documentation.

The Asian nation closed its market to U.S. pork in late April in the wake of an outbreak in humans of 2009 Novel H1N1influenza, which the media misnamed “swine” flu.

“This is great news for U.S. pork producers,” said NPPC President Sam Carney, a pork producer from Adair, Iowa. “China is one of our biggest markets, so being able to ship pork there is extremely important to the U.S. pork industry, which has been hurting economically for more than two years now.

“With the lifting of the H1N1 ban on U.S. pork, we will focus on the remaining impediments to exporting U.S. pork to China,” Carney said.

“In the short run, we could export a lot of pork to China because their prices currently are much higher than ours," says Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes. Per capita incomes in China are rising at around 10 percent per year. “As a result of the rising income, the Chinese are becoming much more interested in having access to chilled, hygienic U.S. pork,” adds Hayes.

According to Hayes, pork exports to the China market will raise U.S. live hog prices by $9 per hog. That export surge could play a central role in the administration's National Export Initiative, which seeks to double U.S. exports in the next five years.

The U.S. pork industry shipped nearly 400,000 metric tons of pork worth nearly $690 million to China/Hong Kong in 2008, making it the No. 3 destination for U.S. pork. Last year, U.S. pork exports to China/Hong Kong were down by 38 percent, falling to just under $427 million.

In October, at the conclusion of the annual U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting, China announced that it would rescind its pork import ban. Since then, NPPC has worked closely with the Obama administration to pressure the Chinese to actually lift their ban and begin accepting U.S. pork imports.

NPPC is continuing to urge the administration to press China to address a number of other trade-related issues that limit U.S. pork imports. Among those issues are China’s ban on U.S. pork produced with ractopamine – an FDA-approved feed additive that improves efficiency in pork production – subsidies China provides its domestic pork producers and a value-added tax it imposes on imports.

Source: NPPC