Pork export volume broke a four-year record with exports rising marginally by 2% above the previous high in 2012, according to statistics from the US Department of Agriculture compiled by the USMEF.
Year-long pork export volume hit a record 2.31 million tonnes (t), rising by 8% year-on-year.
Pork exports now account for slightly more than a quarter of all US swine production, with export value per head averaging around $50.20 in 2016 – a rise of 4% on the previous year, according to USMEF. December 2016 averaged a slightly higher $56.06 per head.
Mexico-US relations key
A key market for the US pork sector is Mexico and since 2011, it has enjoyed tariff-free trade. Pork exports to Mexico generated $1.3bn in value in this.
Tensions between Mexico and the US are strained after US President Donald Trump vowed to fulfil his controversial promise to build a wall, which latest estimates reckon would cost $21bn, and make Mexico pay for it. However, the US pork sector said it could not afford for this decision to impact trade with what was an increasingly important market.
“At this time of record-large pork production, it would be hard to overstate the importance of Mexican demand to the US industry,” said Philip Seng, USMEF President and CEO.
“This is especially true for hams, as we are locked out of Russia – once a large destination for US hams – and China’s demand for imported hams has moderated in recent months. So, now more than ever, we need strong demand from our key customers in Mexico, and they have responded with extraordinary results. December exports to Mexico accounted for nearly $16 per head, and that’s absolutely critical to the entire US pork supply chain.”
Other highlights for the US pork trade include a strong performance in South America. Columbia led exports growth in the region, which collectively imported 11% more pork in volume that in did in 2015.
Japan remains the main value destination for US pork. However, exports have fallen by 5% in volume and 2% in value year-on-year. Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe was due to meet President Trump today (10 February). The National Pork Producers Council have called on Trump to strike a bilateral trade deal to strengthen its position in the Japanese market.