Seeking firsthand insights on all aspects of the U.S. pork industry, representatives of China’s pork industry have arrived in Ohio. The 11-member delegation will conduct a week-long examination of U.S. pork production and processing practices.

On the agenda for the tour are Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. The tour was organized by the U.S. Meat Export Federation and is co-hosted by the Ohio Soybean Council and the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

China/Hong Kong is the largest export market by volume for U.S. pork and pork variety meats in 2008. Through the first seven months of this year, pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region have increased by 288 percent over the same period in 2007.

Market conditions, however, are changing. China has made a concerted effort to bolster its domestic pork production, resulting in significant herd expansion. These larger inventories have led to a decline in live hog prices – including a drop of approximately 15 percent in September alone. Piglet prices in the major hog-raising regions of China have dropped nearly 40 percent from their peak in the early spring.

“The first half of this year showed us the fantastic market potential that China holds for U.S. pork, but current conditions show us that this is still a volatile and very price-sensitive market,” said Donald Song, USMEF’s senior representative for north China. “The longer-term fundamentals point to a strong future for U.S. pork exports to China, but success in this market will not come easily.”

According to Song, one of the keys to profitability and success in China is the development of positive relationships with meat buyers in the region. The team of pork industry representatives visiting the United States is looking not only to increase its understanding of the U.S. pork industry, but also to develop contacts with producers and exporters. The group will receive an educational view of Ohio pork research and production, as the well as the opportunity to meet with representatives from many sectors of Ohio agriculture.

“They will visit Ohio State University, which is a major center of livestock research and development,” said Kirk Merritt, international marketing director for the Ohio Soybean Council. “Then we’ll bring together as many key contacts from our agribusiness industry as possible to convey to this group how important we think their market is, and to encourage them to purchase from Ohio and certainly from the United States.”

 “We see this as an opportunity to emphasize the importance of that market and to support our producers by trying to increase their exports to China,” Merritt said.

On Thursday the group travels to Indiana for a visit to the headquarters of Elanco Animal Health, for an overview of Elanco’s worldwide contributions to improved swine health and performance. The team will also tour the Indiana Packers Corporation’s operation in Delphi, where pork is processed and packaged.

The delegation will be in Chicago, Friday through Sunday, where highlights will include a visit to the Chicago Board of Trade. The group arrives in Des Moines for a “Meet the Buyers” conference in which they will meet with representatives of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

“Iowa Pork Producers have cooperated with USMEF several times in recent years to visit China, and to have an opportunity to visit meat buyers there,” said Iowa Pork Producers Association Executive Director Rich Degner. “We look forward to the opportunity to host pork buyers from China, have them get a better understanding of the pork industry in Iowa, and allow them to become better acquainted with the packers and processers here in Iowa that have a mindset toward exporting our product.”

Additional activities in Iowa include tours of the JBS Swift plant in Marshalltown and the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Ottumwa. The delegation will also visit with faculty and staff of the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University in Ames.

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation