U.S. pork and beef exports finished 2009 on a positive note positioning the categories to start 2010 on an upward trend, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

U.S. pork exports closed the year with an eight percent jump in volume for the month of December compared to year-ago totals. For the calendar year, pork exports registered the second-highest total in history, but fell nine percent in volume behind the record-setting totals of 2008.

The story was similar for U.S. beef exports, which rose nine percent in volume for the month of December compared to 2008. U.S. beef exports for all of 2009 slipped nine percent in volume compared to 2008.

For the entire year, U.S. pork export volume of 1.87 million metric tons (4.11 billion pounds) trailed the record pace of 2008 by 9 percent, while value ($4.33 billion) was down by 11 percent. A comparison to 2007, however, illustrates the degree to which U.S. exports have expanded in a two-year period: 2009 pork/pork variety meat exports exceeded 2007 levels by 43 percent in volume and 37 percent in value.

Mexico was the volume leader with 503,503 metric tons valued at $762.35 million – an increase of 27 percent and 10 percent, respectively, over 2008. This record-breaking performance was particularly impressive considering the country’s sluggish economy and a temporary midyear disruption in pork demand due to H1N1 influenza.

U.S. pork recorded another spectacular year in Japan, falling just short ($1.54 billion versus $1.545 billion) of the value record set in 2008. This was achieved despite an increase of about five percent in Japan’s domestic pork production. The U.S. share of Japan’s imported pork market also reached an all-time high of 46 percent.

In addition to Mexico, single-year pork/pork variety meat export records were established in the following markets:

The biggest declines in U.S. pork exports in 2009 came in two areas where market access and increases in domestic pork production were factors: China/Hong Kong and Russia. Exports to China/Hong Kong declined 35 percent in volume and 38 percent in value. Mainland China has been closed to U.S. pork since June 2009 due to H1N1 influenza. Exports to Russia fell 36 percent in volume and 39 percent in value.

Overall, pork and pork variety meat exports equated to 22.5 percent of U.S. production compared to 24.4 percent in 2008. The value of exports per head slaughtered was $38.44 compared to $42.31 in 2008.

Source: USMEF