March pork exports rose 16 percent in volume over March 2008 led by extremely strong pork sales to Mexico. Compared to the first quarter of 2008, pork exports have risen by 8 percent in volume to 489,348 metric tons and by 10 percent in value to $1.12 billion. More than 23 percent of first quarter pork and variety meat production was exported.

Total U.S. pork exports to Mexico in March was 45,741 metric tons, nearly double in volume from a year ago. For the first quarter of 2009, exports to Mexico increased 74 percent in volume to 136,898 metric tons and by 66 percent in value to $204.7 million.

This performance is remarkable considering the sluggish economic conditions in Mexico, but does not reflect the economic slowdown Mexico has experienced over the past few weeks due to H1N1 Influenza.

“The good news is that U.S. pork has been performing extremely well in Mexico, and we have continued to grow the market at a very strong pace,” said Chad Russell, USMEF regional director for Mexico and the Dominican Republic. “The bad news, obviously, is the disruption that has taken place in the market since that time.”

Japan continues to be the mainstay value market for U.S. pork, with first quarter exports rising 13 percent in volume to 119,445 metric tons and by 26 percent in value to $424 million. March results reflected a slowdown, however, as pork exports rose just 1 percent in value over a year ago while slipping by 3.5 percent in volume.

“Japan is still performing quite well, but we’re feeling the effects of higher domestic pork inventory levels, which are 132 percent higher than last year,” said USMEF Japan Director Gregory Hanes. “The influenza issue has been handled very well here, and we don’t expect lasting impact from that standpoint. But other market factors such as low domestic prices and the weak global economy have certainly made for tougher conditions in the second quarter of the year.”

Pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region have declined by 36 percent compared to the first quarter of 2008, with exports to Russia declining 38 percent in volume. These declines have been largely offset, however, by growth in Taiwan, the ASEAN region, the Caribbean, Australia and Central and South America.

For complete March pork export statistics, click here.

Source: USMEF