What a difference a year can make. In May of 2009, the U.S. pork industry had just begun to deal with the trade repercussions of the H1N1 influenza outbreak. One of the greatest areas of concern was Mexico, where widespread misinformation about the disease placed consumer demand for U.S. pork in serious jeopardy.

The pork industry worked closely with trade and public health officials to educate consumers about H1N1. The U.S. Meat Export Federation, which is supported in part by the National Pork Board’s pork checkoff, also implemented timely marketing strategies in Mexico.

As a result of these efforts, U.S. pork exports to Mexico recovered by mid-summer and went on to set an all-time annual record. This strong momentum has continued in 2010, with pork/pork variety meat exports up another 7 percent in volume to 324 million pounds and 26 percent in value to $258 million in the first quarter of the year.

“The January-through-March 2010 numbers are very strong, particularly in light of the economic difficulties Mexico is undergoing,” says Chad Russell, the USMEF regional director for Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic. “This 7 percent growth for the first quarter of 2010 is even more impressive when you consider that last year pork exports grew 27 percent for 2009.”

Muscle cut export growth (primarily hams) has also been significant – up 24 percent in volume to more than 221 million pounds and 45 percent in value to $195 million over the record pace of 2009.

Demand for U.S. pork is proving to be very resilient, even as ham prices increase significantly, Russell adds.

“We track the peso value of U.S. hams, and 2010 prices are costing the Mexicans more for U.S. hams compared to last year. In spite of that, demand is still up 24 percent from a year ago.”

Source: NPB