U.S. pig meat exports in September were 442 million pounds, more than 37% above September 2010 numbers, due largely to increased demand for U.S. pork products in Asia, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's most recent report.

Exports from Japan and China in particular largely account for the sharp year-over-year increase, according to the report. Third-quarter exports were 1.26 billion pounds, about 33% larger than in the same period in 2010. U.S. companies shipped almost 23% of U.S. commercial pork production to foreign destinations in the third quarter, versus about 18% in the third quarter of 2010, and almost 7% in the third quarter of 2000. The strong year-over-year volume increase, together with export share growth, shows the importance that exports have assumed in aggregate demand for U.S. pork products.

The largest foreign destination for U.S. pork products in September was Japan — which imported 121 million pounds and accounted for 27% of U.S. pork exports. China came in second with more than 82 million pounds, followed by Mexico (81 million pounds) and Canada (50 million pounds). One of the explanatory factors for strong September exports is the continued low-valued exchange rate of the U.S. dollar. In particular, the very favorable U.S. dollar-Japanese yen rate is likely a key factor in strong Japanese demand for U.S. pork.

Fourth-quarter exports are forecast at 1.3 billion pounds, more than 13% higher than fourth-quarter 2010. Total U.S. pork exports for 2012 are expected to increase almost 3%, to 5.1 billion pounds.