US to focus on aggressive growth strategies as pork exports set new records in 2019

US pork exports finished 2019 on a high note, setting new records for both value and volume, according to statistics released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
calendar icon 13 February 2020
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For the year, 5.89 billion pounds of US pork and pork variety meats valued at $6.952 billion were exported to countries around the world, up 10 percent and 9 percent respectively from 2018.

Pork exports accounted for 26.9 percent of total 2019 US pork production. Export value per head averaged $53.51, up 4 percent from 2018.

“China was the main driver for the record-breaking pace of US pork exports in 2019,” said David Newman, a pig farmer representing Arkansas and president of the National Pork Board. “We are poised to help fill China’s protein gap caused by the country’s African swine fever (ASF) outbreak. But we’re also focused on recapturing lost market share with key customers and investing in research to develop emerging markets.”

While exports to China were higher in 2019, key US pork customers, including Japan (No. 1 in value) and Mexico (No. 1 in volume), saw significant declines as the United States worked to negotiate new trade deals with each country.

Japan has historically been the leading market for US pork in terms of value, as well as the leading destination for US chilled (never frozen) pork loins. In 2019, the US held 46 percent of Japan’s market for chilled pork, down from 70 percent in 2017, according to Norman Bessac, vice president of international marketing.

“With Japan as the most important US market, the Pork Checkoff has brought key stakeholders and thought leaders together on a task force to lead marketing efforts there,” Bessac said. “The Checkoff investment in the task force and subsequent programmes, promotions and educational events will help build Japan’s confidence in US pork and allow exporters to recapture lost market share.”

Mexico remains the top market for US pork by volume, with over 1.56 billion pounds of pork and pork variety meat exported in 2019.

“The majority of pork and pork variety meat exported to Mexico is bone-in hams,” said Bessac. “This is a great market, but there’s an opportunity to expand the product mix and to add value for US pig farmers.”

Recently, the Pork Checkoff secured grant funds through the Foreign Ag Service Quality Samples Program and the Emerging Markets Program to help customers in Mexico develop new uses for pork loins. A new task force will provide insight to the Checkoff and USMEF as they use the grant and other programmes to diversify US pork exports to Mexico.

Building on the success of the Pork Checkoff report, Pork 2040: China Market Assessment, a new research and market study focusing on the ASEAN region, specifically Vietnam and the Philippines, will be conducted and released this year.

“The Pork Checkoff is committed to adding value for pork producers,” Newman said. “Aggressive marketing strategies in both developed and emerging markets will position US pork to do just that.”

The Pork Board has developed new infographics to highlight the importance of pork exports to US pork producers. To learn more visit,

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