Within a week following the April 23 announcement of Mexico’s H1N1 outbreak, pork consumption took a huge hit as businesses were closed, including restaurants and movie theatres. Public events were also cancelled in an effort to contain the spread of the disease. But by mid-May, as the number of new cases the influenza declined, business and economic life, except for tourism, was returning to normal.
In Mexico, the hog industry represents approximately 25% of the total livestock sector (including dairy). Rabobank estimates that there are between 1 million and 1.2 million sows in production in the country, resulting in a production of 1.2 million metric tons of pork. Average per capita consumption is around 15.4 kilos annually. Mexico is a major importer of pork, largely from the U.S. But Mexico also exports pork, mainly to Japan and Korea, and in a less scale to the U.S. These markets remained opened following the H1N1 outbreak. In 2008, Mexican pork exports generated $320 million in sales.
Domestically, food manufacturing, i.e. hams, sausages, etc. account for approximately 20% of the market. Ham, which is widely consumed, showed an initial moderate contraction in demand during period that the emergency H1N1 measures were in effect. The industry expects that ham consumption will quickly return to normal levels, given its popularity as a sandwich meat. For these products, price is the most important factor influencing consumption.
While undoubtedly some of the fall in consumption is related to consumers refusing to eat pork out of fear of contamination, a significant part of the drop in consumption has also to been attributed to the closing of restaurants, suspension of public events and drop off in tourism. Restaurants and street vendors (i.e. taco stands) account for a large share of the sale of pork.