U.S. pork export projected to increase


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Pork exports hit record highs in 2012, and further success is projected for 2013. 

In 2012, U.S. pork exports reached a record 5.38 billion pounds at a value of $6.3 billion. Iowa produces 28 percent of all U.S. pork, bringing in a great deal of economic benefit to the state.

“It’s extremely important to our economy,” said Tom Wall, one local pork producer. “It creates jobs.” 

According to the Iowa Pork Producers Association, more than 39,000 jobs are related to raising hogs in Iowa.

Wall said the industry produces jobs in feed production, equipment production, packing, and transportation.

He also said Iowa is one of the best places in the world to produce pork because Iowa producers can feed the pigs soybeans and corn they grow themselves. And then they can use the manure from the pigs to fertilize crops.

According to the pork association, there were 8,300 hog operations in Iowa at the end of 2008. An estimated 30 million hogs are raised in Iowa annually, according to the association.

“We can [produce pork] more economically than anywhere else in the country, and we have the people with the know-how to do it,” Wall said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that pork exports in 2013 will rise to 5.4 billion pounds, but that may be affected by potential trade concerns with Russia and China.

Lee Schulz, associate professor of economics at Iowa State University, said Russia and China both have bans on pork with ractopamine, a feed additive that increases the leanness of the meat. Schulz said the ban on imports with the feed additive is most likely less about a food safety issue than the countries may claim.

“Their policies are a lot of times directed at stimulating domestic production,” he said.

David Miller, the director of research and commodity services for the Iowa Farm Bureau, said the reason pork did so well in 2012 was because of the expansion of newer markets.

“The drivers really are exports into China, South Korea, and Russia, in addition to our normal exports into Japan,” Miller said.

The South Korean market is the newest of growing markets because of the free-trade agreement between South Korea and the U.S. that was ratified in 2012.

South Korea imported $421.1 million in pork from the U.S. last year. Miller said the demand for pork in these countries has risen as their economies have grown.

“It really is a function, if you will, of an improved world economy,” he said. “As those economies continue to emerge and grow, there’s more inclusion of meat in their diet.”

The U.S. is currently in negotiation with the European Union for a possible free-trade agreement, and Wall said it would be great for increased exports in the pork industry.

“It’s another market that we can sell our product into,” he said. “I hope it does happen, but [with] those things you can’t tell. [With the] Korean trade deal, it took forever for it to get ratified. I’m always hopeful.”

Miller said he expects negotiations to take multiple years, based on how long the negotiations with South Korea took.

“I think it is tough to anticipate anything that’s happening at the federal government level right now,” he said. “I would expect that the negotiation of that will take at least a year or two.”

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