Despite growing concerns about the global financial crisis, U.S. pork exports have set a new record. The August total of nearly $444 million has pushed this year’s export value past the former record total achieved in the full year of 2007.

In just the first eight months of 2008, pork exports reached a value of $3.21 billion, compared to $3.15 billion in all of 2007. The export volume of 1.37 million metric tons also exceeds 2007’s year-end total.
 
“This is really an amazing milestone for pork exports,” says Philip Seng, U.S. Meat Export Federation president. “We knew pork exports were headed for an all-time high in 2008, but for the industry to break that record before Labor Day is quite an accomplishment.”
 
January-August pork exports have increased 71 percent in volume and 64 percent in value compared to the same period last year. Japan is still the largest value market for U.S. pork, at $992.7 million for the year. Japan’s volume of 299,277 metric tons is up 25 percent over last year.

Pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region – this year’s leading destination for U.S. pork in terms of volume - declined again in August, totaling 21,568 metric tons valued at $37.1 million. This is less than half the record volume recorded in May 2008, but it is still well above the 2007 level and pushed the region’s total for the year to 307,903 metric tons valued at 533.8 million. High domestic production costs in China will likely force some producers out of business and China remains a promising market for U.S. pork exports in 2009.

Mexico also continues to be a strong growth market, with January-August volume up 35 percent and value up 46 percent over last year. For the remainder of the year, however, activity may decline due to the recent devaluation of the Mexican peso.

Pork exports to Russia increased 174 percent in volume and 177 percent in value this year - to 141,446 metric tons valued at $302 million. Seng cautioned that current negotiations regarding tariff rate quota amounts and tariff rates could impact future trade with Russia.
 
Exports to Canada remain well above 2007 levels. Through August, results are up 23 percent in volume and 20 percent in value over the same period in 2007. Exports to South Korea have increased 47 percent in volume and 28 percent in value over the same period last year.

January-August exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have increased 449 percent in volume over the same period last year to 43,737 metric tons. While monthly exports to Vietnam and the Philippines have declined from the record volumes recorded during the first half of this year, August volume was still about three times as large as the August 2007 total.

Exports to the European Union have increased 153 percent in volume. Pork production in the E.U. is expected to decline by at least 3 percent next year, which could further strengthen opportunities for U.S. pork. Pork exports are also gaining considerable traction in Eastern Europe, particularly in Bulgaria.

Exports to Australia and New Zealand have climbed 23 percent in volume and 14 percent in value over the same period last year, reaching 31,893 metric tons valued at $79.4 million.

Source: National Pork Producers Council