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WPX 2012: US Pork Exports in 2012 Not as Strong as 2011

8 June 2012, at 10:04pm

US – The US had record pork exports in 2011 and very strong exports in the first quarter of 2012. However, currency exchange issues and fewer exports to China will make this a more challenging year, writes Chris Wright for ThePigSite from the World Pork Expo in Des Moines.

RC Hunt, President of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), said that the future of the US pork industry depends on free and fair trade and the continued expansion of exports. He pointed out that in 2011 the US exported a record of US$6.1 billion in pork, accounting for 27 per cent of all pork produced in the country.

Hunt said that particularly since last June, there has been great success for US pork exports to major markets. One of those markets was China, which was especially important in the latter half of 2011. However it does not appear that China will import as much in 2012 as it did last year.

Fewer exports to China and complications due to currency exchange issues in other countries this year lead Hunt to believe that they won't reach the 27 per cent mark like they did last year. Still, the expectations for 2012 are optimistic, he said.

Free Trade Agreements

Among the highlights that Hunt pointed out was the passage last year of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The agreements with South Korea and Colombia have gone into effect and the Panama FTA should be implemented later this year.

Once fully implemented, these three FTAs will generate over US$ 770 million in additional pork exports annually.

Hunt pointed out the agreement with Colombia, in which Colombia agreed to remove a requirement that the US freeze or test pork against trichinae. Since the US has a negligible risk for trichinae, the Colombian requirement was a non-scientific barrier that prevented access of US chilled pork exports to Colombia. The NPPC worked closely with US and Colombian officials to remove the trichinae mitigation requirement. The removal of this barrier will allow US pork exports to reach 100,000 metric tons.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Among the export challenges that lay ahead, Hunt said that the US is currently participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations with eight countries. With a total population of 195 million, TPP countries represent a substantial market for US pork exports.

Of those TPP countries, Hunt said that Viet Nam has the biggest potential for expanded US pork exports. Vietnam currently has limited US imports via non-tariff barriers. But if those barriers were removed, US pork exports could reach nearly US$ 600 million.

Hunt also mentioned trade with Canada, which is one of the US top export markets, while the US represents Canada's top export market. Canada has expressed interest in joining the TPP, but the NPPC objects to Canada's long history of subsidizing hog producers. Without those subsidies US pork exports to Canada would increase significantly. Therefore the NPPC urges that those subsidies be eliminated as a condition of Canada's entry into the TPP.

Japan also wants to join the TPP, but its agricultural sector is against it. Year after year, Japan has been the number one value market and the number two volume market for US pork exports.

China and Russia

At a second conference, also on pork exports and potential markets, held during the World Pork Expo, Laurie Hueneke, Director of International Trade Policy, Sanitary and Technical Issues for NPPC, addressed trade with China and Russia.

China is by far the world's largest pork consumer, consuming 50 million metric tons and could easily be the US's largest export market. China (including Hong Kong) imports only one per cent of its total pork consumption. Also, Chinese pork producers don't have easy or cheap access to feed grains, therefore their production costs are much higher than in the US. So imports from the US seem logical.

However, there are a number of issues restricting US pork to China. Hueneke said that those issues include a ban on the use of ractopamine, very high value added tax on pork imports and large subsidies to domestic producers, among other issues. Also, it was mentioned at this session that Chinese pork production has increased four per cent in 2011/2012.

If US exports to China increased as little as one quarter of one per cent, it would increase the value of US pork per head by US$ 3.72. If that went up one per cent it would increase the value of US pork per head by US$14.88 said Hueneke. Therefore, any positive movement in exports to China will be significant.

Russia is the talk of town in Washington, said Hueneke, because it will soon become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Once it joins the WTO, the US Congress must grant normal trade relations to Russia, in order to take advantage of the negotiated benefits.

Hueneke said that since 2008, US pork exports to Russia have decreased. There are a number of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues that need to be addressed with Russia so that US pork can grow in that market.

Those SPS include the trichinae issue, which calls for freezing pork, even though the US does not have problems with trichinae. Russia has zero tolerance for pathogens and tetracyclines and is threatening a ban on the use of ractopamine. It was also mentioned at this session that Russian pork production has increased five per cent in 2011/2012.

Hueneke concluded by saying that Russia has the fifth largest economy in the world and therefore represents a US$400 million a year potential for the US pork export market.