Meat industry leaders from across the world gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, this week for the 2008 IMS World Meat Congress. Hosted biennially by the International Meat Secretariat, the World Meat Congress offers presentations and panel discussions on a wide-range of meat industry issues – including livestock production and research, improving livestock health and meat safety, trends in consumption and consumer behavior, and issues affecting global meat trade.

The conference has featured two U.S. Meat Export Federation presentations. On Monday, Joel Haggard, senior vice president for the Asia Pacific region, provided an update on pork trade in Asia, with specific focus on the factors driving the recent surge in pork exports to China. In the first half of 2008, U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports to Hong Kong/China increased 324 percent in volume and 415 percent in value over the same period last year. These 2008 exports were valued at nearly $440 million and accounted for about 6 percent of all U.S. pork production.

While Haggard expects China to continue to be a strong market for U.S. pork exports, he cautioned that China’s hog and sow inventories are increasing rapidly, due to both government and private investment in large-scale pork production facilities aimed at bolstering its domestic pork production.

“China’s interest in building new farms is also evidenced by a sharp increase in imports of breeding hogs,” Haggard said. “China is clearly hoping development of large-scale farms can help smooth out the country’s roller-coaster hog market.”

Also, USMEF Manager of Research and Analysis Erin Daley spoke on major global trends in beef and pork consumption, and the implications these trends will have on international trade. Daley said growth in personal income and purchasing power are helping drive demand for red-meat protein. But she emphasized   that a very high percentage of the growth in the world’s population and income is occurring in developing countries.  

“Over the next 20 years, 80 percent of the world’s population growth will occur in those countries least capable of supporting it – politically, environmentally and economically,” she said. “Between 2005 and 2050, nine countries are expected to account for nearly half of the world’s population growth. Of these nine, the United States is the only developed country.”

Daley noted that while these trends could present tremendous opportunities for meat-exporting nations, trade barriers continue to be major obstacles.

“With World Trade Organization talks stalled for now, we’ll continue to see high tariffs in many countries,” she said. “That can hinder growth in consumption in areas that are not self-sufficient in their meat production.”

 USMEF President and Chief Executive Officer Philip Seng will chair a session Wednesday that focuses on international trade. Seng currently serves on the IMS Executive Council and chairs the IMS Animal Welfare Committee.

For more information on the 2008 IMS World Meat Congress, click here.

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation