Late last year with support from the National Pork Board, the U.S. Meat Export Federation launched a campaign to increase retail sales of U.S. chilled pork in Hong Kong. According to Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, one ongoing project in Hong Kong has been featuring U.S. chilled pork at retail outlets, specifically at one of Hong Kong's major supermarket chains and at several wet market outlets.
"This project has not been without its challenges including the lack of familiarity of consumers, but also importers and distributors with vacuum-packaged chilled pork, plus the logistical challenges of establishing a new supply chain to Hong Kong using ocean vessels rather than air shipments," Haggard says. "That has allowed U.S. pork to compete price wise, but also freshness wise with other chilled pork from the mainland, Thailand and Australia."
Haggard says sales have been gradually growing, especially over the last month as Hong Kong again tightened up its social distancing measures, resulting in more meals being consumed at home.
"With African swine fever still impacting China supplies, the price of locally slaughtered fresh pork remains high," Haggard says. "Challenges remain with product arriving here by boat that needs to be sold quickly to avoid shelf life issues and the contraction in world trade is throwing up some hurdles in terms of shipping, but we're hopeful that these can be overcome as epidemic curves flatten."
Haggard also sees opportunities for U.S. chilled pork in mainland China and Vietnam. Next month USMEF has plans to begin promotional activities surrounding U.S. chilled pork in mainland China as pandemic restrictions are lifted.
"Retail food sales have been extraordinarily strong, and we see demand improving in China as more parts of the economy come back online, for example, schools and their cafeterias and eventually restaurants," Haggard says. "We're also looking into the feasibility of chilled pork exports to Vietnam, which like China has seen a sharp contraction to its hog herd due to ASF. Although COVID-19 has affected markets like no other crisis I have ever seen, we are seeing bright spots on this side of the Pacific as economies look to more widely reopen."