January 2011 exports of U.S. pork were well above January 2010 levels, though they declined from the totals recorded in December 2010, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Pork exports totaled 165,138 metric tons valued at $396.9 million — an increase of 15% in volume and 19% in value over January 2010. “Despite some significant market access issues — some ongoing and some new — our exports performed quite well in January,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “U.S. meat products continue to command excellent prices throughout the world, which is providing a boost for the American producer and the entire meat industry.”

Northern Asia has played a large role in the growing numbers, according to the USMEF report. January exports to Japan totaled 35,765 metric tons valued at $133.5 million, an increase of 28% in volume and 24% in value over a year ago. Exports to China were also strong, reaching 19,258 metric tons valued at $29.1 million. South Korea’s foot-and-mouth disease situation resulted in widespread culling of swine and is creating a need for more imported pork. U.S. exports to Korea were up 128% in volume (13,183 metric tons) and 163% in value ($32.1 million) compared to January 2010. Global Trade Atlas data show that Korea’s pork imports from all sources have increased by about 60% over a year ago.

Exports to the top Central American markets of Honduras and Guatemala showed solid growth, with Honduras up 20% in volume (1,757 metric tons) and nearly 40% in value ($3.9 million), while Guatemala was up 41% in volume (683 metric tons) and 29% in value ($1.5 million). “The Central American markets show a lot of potential,” said Seng. “They don’t have the established retail and food service infrastructure that we see in markets like Japan, Korea and Mexico, so the volumes are much smaller, but they are growing markets where we are working with importers and buyers to educate them about the quality and value of U.S. products.”

Exports to the Australia and New Zealand region were flat in volume (4,330 metric tons) but grew by 46% in value to $13.7 million. New Zealand was especially strong, with exports more than doubling in volume and jumping 154% in value.

Mexico, which fell just short of the $1 billion mark for U.S. pork during 2010, cooled slightly in January but still purchased 50,148 metric tons valued at $86.9 million. This was lower than January 2010 but still higher in value than the 2010 monthly average. With regard to Mexico, we are hopeful January was just a speed bump for a very red-hot market," said Seng. "If the retaliatory tariffs from the NAFTA trucking dispute are eliminated soon, this will help U.S. pork regain its momentum in Mexico.”