New trade data published last week by the US Department of Agriculture indicates that US pork exports are on the rise in the ASEAN region. Comparing the period from January to May of 2012 to the same period in 2013, exports to the Philippines have increased 42% to make it the eighth largest market for US pork, and Singapore’s imports have also grown 14%. This is particularly good news, as exports to Japan, China and South Korea are currently on the decline. While Japan remains the largest international market for US pork exports, shipments to Japan have fallen 6%, exports to China have fallen 43% and exports to Korea are down 31%. As the fourth and fifth largest markets for US pork exports, these declines in China and South Korea present a major challenge to US pork producers.
According to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), even countries with significant Muslim populations in ASEAN are starting to import more pork as they seek to attract more tourism from the West. The USMEF has conducted cooking demonstrations and participated in regional restaurant and tourism trade shows to highlight US pork to buyers and importers, and those efforts appear to be paying off. Beyond just growing the demand for traditional Western cuts of meat, increases in exports are also being buoyed by sales of pork parts not traditionally valued by the American consumer.
The decline in South Korea may reverse as a current overpopulation in their domestic pig herd levels off and tariffs continue to fall as the terms of the KORUS FTA kick in. Additionally, exports to China may increase substantially if a proposed takeover of US pork producer Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui Holdings, a Chinese company, goes forward. Many signs also point to continued growth in ASEAN markets, which can only be good news for US pork producers.