U.S. pork exports may not experience big increases like the past, but will continue to play a vital role in the industry in 2009. Agricultural economist Steve Meyer, president, Paragon Economics, says U.S. pork exports in November were up only 0.5 percent from year earlier levels. Exports will not likely continue their strong pace according to Meyer. “I think it’s doubtful exports will grow by 50 percent as in they have recently.”

“The stronger U.S. dollar will not help exports, there’s no question about that,” says Meyer. The economist also points to concerns in exports to the China-Hong Kong market. Exports to the region are down 80 percent from their peak in June of 2008.

Meyer remains hopeful for continued pork export performance. “I think there’s a reasonable chance we’ll be able to hold exports together and perhaps even keep our string of record exports together in 2009, he said. “That would be a huge accomplishment.”
“We still have some good things going on in our exports,” Meyer says. U.S.-raised pork enjoys a sparkling reputation. “I think the U.S. will remain the place where people will come to buy pork,” says Meyer. Japan, for example, remains a steady and important customer as the leading market for U.S. pork.

Meyer forecasts slaughter levels will decline by 3 percent in 2009 from the total slaughter of 116.5 million head reached in 2008.