U.S. pork exports had the best month ever in July, reaching 233,242 metric tons, up 32% from a year ago and topping the previous record from April 2018. Export value also increased 34% to $623.3 million, breaking the previous high reached in November 2017.
One of the biggest factors in this performance was a strong rebound in exports to Mexico, which has recovered nicely since regaining duty-free status. Since the 20% retaliatory duty was removed in late May, exports to Mexico topped 67,000 mt in July, up 19% from a year ago, while value surged 38% to nearly $127 million.
The rebound in exports comes not only from the tariffs being lifted, but also from USMEF efforts to ramp up its customer outreach in Mexico during the time the retaliatory duty was in place.
“There were some other countries exporting to Mexico and there was a door that was open for new competitors that we didn't have in the market,” says Gerardo Rodriguez, U.S. Meat Export Federation marketing director for Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic “So we had to play very defensive, trying to keep our key customers and our importers committed to the product, that we worked in the first semester of the year a lot of education, a lot of research and development. Nowadays, when we are able to play more authentic, we are marketing new products and we are gaining a lot of volume. We need immediate results. We need to get our market share back. We need to recover as much as possible and as fast as possible the market share that we were struggling in the last 12 months when we were having this tariffs situation.”
During this time USMEF also worked with importers and pork processors to develop new products. Rodriguez says a good example of this is the work the organization completed with Capistrano, the No. 4 processor in Mexico.
“We worked with them on the development of an accessible priced, affordable pork ham. So, Capistrano is basically working with the middle high end of consumers. Now they are developing the middles to low because we understood that here is where the volume is,” Rodriguez says. “This product has been such a success for them that they are buying a lot of U.S. pork in order to supply the demand that they have for this product.”
USMEF has also been working on the development of new processed pork items sold in Mexico's rapidly growing convenience store sector.
“We're about to launch new pork products that are going to be sold in the convenience stores, kind of a pork jerky,” Rodriguez says. “We are also developing value added, fully cooked products, products that were not existent at the beginning of the year.”