May 9, 2013
The decline in US pork exports in March of 18.4% is the largest on-year drop since the summer of 2009, due to import disruptions to Russia and China on both occasions.
In 2009, the reason was the H1N1 influenza. This year it is ractopamine.
US pork exports in March amounted to 397.15 million pounds (180,144 tonnes), carcass weight equivalent, a fall of 18.4% on-year, according to USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).
As predicted, shipments to Russia in March were zero due to the country's ban on imports of US beef, pork and turkey. Russia blocks US product from entering the country, despite some US processors' assurance of delivering pork from animals not fed ractopamine. Suppliers in Canada have also been barred from exporting to Russia even though a number of suppliers moved quickly to supply pork from non-ractopamine production systems. Russia accounted for 5.1 % of US pork exports in 2012.
Russia employed the same policy with H1N1 in 2009 and again with tetracycline minimum residue levels (MRLs) in 2010. They have also banned US chicken imports on several occasions.
US chicken companies still sell chicken to Russia as March exports were up 42 % on-year, and up 36 % for 2013, year-to-date. Exports of pork to Russia are near or at zero in many months.
Shipments to China/Hong Kong were down 36 %, on-year in March, but those shipments of 48.2 million pounds (21,863 tonnes) carcass weight were only 3.2 % lower than in February. China has again raised the issue that their products are certified free of ractopamine.
The driver of the negative on-year comparisons remains the surge of exports in late 2011 and early 2012. USDA is still making on-year comparisons to very large year-ago numbers.
Only Canada and the markets labelled "Other" were higher this March year than last - 7.4 % and 16.2 %, respectively.