Warning signs as Denmark pig exports to USA fall

By Poorna Rodrigo

- Last updated on GMT

Danish pig meat exports to the US have fallen significantly
Danish pig meat exports to the US have fallen significantly

Related tags: Pig meat, International trade

Denmark pig meat exports to the USA have dropped by a significant 18.2% this year so far, according to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics. 

The sales fall comes at a tough time for the Danish industry, with Russian sales blocked and concerns growing that the Danish pig meat sector could lose two third of its exports to Japan when the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement comes into effect, an industry expert has warned.

“The year-to-date pork imports ​[to the USA by August end] from Denmark equalled 19,243 metric tonnes (t), 18.2% lower than a year ago. And during August, ​[2015] the US imported 2,013 metric tonnes of pork from Denmark, which was down 16.1% from the previous month,”​ according to USDA bi-weekly international meat, poultry and egg review in mid-October.

However, Danish Agriculture and Food Council [Landbrug & Fødevarer] chief advisor and the head of pig meat section Erik Kam told GlobalMeatNews​ that the fall was caused by a rebound in US production after the American industry recovered from the porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv). Looking ahead, Danish exports may have to rely more on specialist sales, such as pork spare ribs, also called ‘baby ribs’, which are very popular in American restaurants, Kam said, adding that this market had been “pretty stable”​. Meat Import Council of America executive director and secretary Laurie Bryant said the drop was not due to “any problem with Danish pig meat”​.

That said, the fall in sales comes at a tough time. The TPP agreement struck on 4 October, said Kam, was going to be “catastrophic” for Denmark’s pig meat industry. The deal will open US markets to TPP pig meat exports from Canada, Vietnam, New Zealand, Japan and elsewhere. And Canada already has a strong position – nearly 78.6% of total pig meat imports to the USA are from Canada so far this year, up 21.2% from last year (2014), at 245,257t, according to USDA statistics – and the TPP will remove non-tariff trade restrictions in place within the already liberalised US-Canada trading relationship. There is also special concern about the TPP’s impact on Japan market for Danish pig meat exporters.

In 2014, Denmark exported 135,000t of pig meat, worth €530 million, to TPP member Japan, but after the deal comes into force (which may happen next year), Denmark could lose 90,000t of these sales – meaning two-thirds of exports will be lost, warned Kam. The TPP agreement involves significant trade liberalisation for the export of pig meat from Canada and the US into Japan. With Denmark accounting for one-third of EU exports, the EU needs to make haste with its own ongoing trade negotiations with Japan, said Kam: “We estimate that if this takes place without a similar deal between the EU and Japan, the EU will lose 200,000t of export to the Japanese markets when implemented.”​ In 2014, Japan imported in total 839,000t of pig meat – of which 308,000t came from the EU, 277,000t from the US and 148,000t from Canada.

Kam said the EU-Japan trade deal needed to be finalised soon and the Danish meat industry should make sure “there is no time lagging in the implementation period compared to what has been agreed in TPP”​.

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