Pork exports for the first half of 2008 give producers something to celebrate. Record-setting pork exports continue as sales overseas provide a needed boost for pork producers at a time of economic hardship.

Pork and pork variety meat exports in June totaled 192,667 metric tons valued at $451 million — double the volume exported in June of 2007. This drove year-to-date pork exports to 1,018,467 metric tons valued at $2.3 billion — 67 percent above the first six months of 2007 in terms of volume, and 58 percent higher than last year in terms of value. Currently, 24 percent of pork and pork variety meats produced in the United States is destined for foreign markets.

China-Hong Kong is the largest volume destination for U.S. pork and pork variety meats. Exports to this region in the first half of 2008 jumped 324 percent over last year to 254,445 metric tons valued at $440 million. Exports to this region alone account for 6 percent of this year’s U.S. pork production.

Strong performance in export markets is providing price stability at a critical time for U.S. pork producers. The pork cutout set a new record last week at $90.56 per hundredweight — surpassing the $90 mark for the first time. This compares to a cutout price of about $75 per hundredweight last year.

“A significant rise in pork values has been led by strong prices for export items such as trimmings, hams and picnics,” said Erin Daley, manager of research and analysis for the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “The rise in prices for these items indicates continued strong export demand into August.”

Other strong-performing markets for pork exports, including variety meats, in the first half of 2008 include Japan, the single largest market for U.S. pork in terms of value. Through June, exports to Japan were valued at $712 million, rising 21 percent over last year. Exports to Mexico for the first half, valued at $270 million, were up 23 percent over last year’s same period.

Other leading export markets for the first six months include Canada at $258 million, up 22 percent for the period, and Russia at $198 million, rising 137 percent over the same period last year.

“With pork production running 9 percent over last year, exports have been the clear driver for improved U.S. pork prices,” Daley said. “Exports continue to provide critical support for producers who need to cover sharply higher input costs.”

First-half results for 2008 indicate demand for U.S. beef is also surging in a wide range of foreign markets. Beef and beef variety meat exports in June increased 35 percent and totaled 89,054 metric tons, valued at $328 million. During the first half of the year, these exports totaled 445,036 metric tons, valued at $1.58 billion – an increase of 30 percent in volumes and 39 percent in value. The top-performing markets for U.S. beef and beef variety meats continue to be Mexico and Canada. U.S. beef continues to rebuild market share in Japan – once the single largest market for beef exports.

Daley said that while this year’s beef exports won’t be able to match the peak levels achieved earlier in this decade, the beef industry is getting close to reaching the same level of value. While beef exports exceeded $3.8 billion in 2003, she forecasts that this year’s exports could total as high as $3.5 billion – assuming no major disruptions in trade.

Complete June U.S. pork and beef export statistics can be accessed online.

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation