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Exports Top of Mind at World Pork Expo

Published: Jun 08, 2012
More than one out of every four U.S. hogs slaughtered is destined for an international market, so exports are always a hot topic at the World Pork Expo. This year is no exception, as more than 20,000 pork producers from across the country took a strong interest in the challenges and opportunities facing U.S. pork exports in 2012.

The USMEF delegation at this year’s World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, included Chairman Danita Rodibaugh, Assistant Vice President of Industry Relations John Hinners, Marketing Specialist Beka Gill and Max Covaliu, USMEF-Mexico corporate chef.

Covaliu and Rodibaugh, along with Becca Hendricks and Dr. Paul Sundberg of the National Pork Board (NPB) and Laurie Hueneke of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), led a session titled, “Export Issues and World Markets” – an update on international marketing strategies and activities, trade barriers and other trade policy issues.

Covaliu also conducted a demonstration of how U.S. pork is utilized in Mexico’s foodservice and retail sectors. Mexico is consistently the leading volume destination for U.S. pork, and this year is no exception. In the first quarter, pork exports – including both muscle cuts and variety meat – were 17 percent ahead of last year’s pace in both volume (162,721 metric tons or nearly 359 million pounds) and value ($299.7 million). This growth is especially impressive considering 2011 saw a record performance for U.S. pork in Mexico, exceeding $1 billion in value for the first time.

“Chef Max’s demonstration, and the insights he shared about the Mexican market, were very well-received by producers in attendance,” Rodibaugh said. “Pork producers understand the critical contribution Mexico makes toward their profitability, so this was an excellent opportunity for them to learn more about the market from someone who’s there promoting their product day in and day out. It was just an exceptional platform for sharing information about how our industry pulls together to build international demand for U.S. pork.”

The demonstration was just one of many activities attracting World Pork Expo attendees to NPB’s internationally themed hospitality tent. Rodibaugh addressed producers on a variety of issues affecting the international markets for U.S. pork and conducted several interviews with agricultural and business media. Covaliu and Hinners led educational seminars explaining the important return pork variety meat delivers when marketed effectively in destinations such as Mexico, Central and South America, China, South Korea and the Caribbean. USMEF member Pine Ridge Farms donated a wide range of variety meat items that were showcased at the seminars. A decade ago, the U.S. pork industry exported about of 3.5 pounds of pork variety meat per hog slaughtered. Today that figure has tripled, which adds critical value to every carcass. This is one of the factors that lifted export value per U.S. hog slaughtered to a calendar-year record $55.55 in 2011. This year, per-head export value has climbed even higher – approaching $60 through March.

USMEF also hosted a team of pork buyers from Mexico this week that visited the World Pork Expo. It also got a comprehensive look at U.S. pork production, processing and merchandising practices. The team was hosted for dinner on Wednesday evening by several USMEF member organizations, which included special guest Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.

“As always, the 2012 World Pork Expo has been a great opportunity for producers and industry stakeholders to attend seminars and issue updates, see the latest technology, fellowship with friends and colleagues, and enjoy an array of delicious pork,” Rodibaugh said. “I would like to congratulate the NPPC and the NPB for their efforts as well as everyone responsible for putting together another successful World Pork Expo. It has been my pleasure to represent USMEF here and to convey the importance of international marketing to my fellow producers.”