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U.S. pork industry keeps eye on Vietnam for future trade

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Vietnam represents one of the best near-term export opportunities for U.S. pork industry.

Diversifying market opportunities, including exports, remains a priority for Minnesota hog farmers and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). As an industry annually exporting more than one-quarter of production, establishing fair trade agreements will create a more resilient demand portfolio for pork.

While NPPC is focused on numerous markets, Vietnam represents one of our best near-term export opportunities. Vietnam is a major pork-consuming nation dealing with African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks in its domestic herd. The country is in need of affordable, reliable pork, yet U.S. pork producers are hamstrung by unwarranted tariff and non-tariff barriers, allowing global competitors to take advantage of the supply shortfall.

Last week, more than 70 U.S. lawmakers—led by Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) —sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, urging her support for enhanced market access for U.S. pork producers in Vietnam. “Vietnam presents a tremendous opportunity for U.S. pork exporters,” the lawmakers wrote. Last year, Vietnam imported only 25,000 metric tons (MT) of U.S. pork, while Mexico, the second largest importer of U.S. pork by volume, imported 735,000 MT.

Last year, Vietnam took an initial step forward in addressing the U.S. pork tariff disadvantage when, from July-December 2020, it temporarily reduced its Most Favored Nation tariff rates from 15 percent to 10 percent for frozen U.S. pork products. As a result, U.S. pork exports doubled during that timeframe, compared to the first half of the year.

“The surge in exports during the tariff reprieve, coupled with Vietnam’s growing population and cultural preference for high-quality pork, demonstrates that the United States is barely scratching the surface of its export potential to Vietnam,” the lawmakers outlined to Tai.

Another important Southeast Asian market for U.S. pork producers is the Philippines. The country, another major pork-consuming nation, has been battling ASF since 2019, and as a result, domestic production has declined, supplies have tightened, and pork prices have skyrocketed. Thanks to long-standing NPPC efforts, recent progress has been made in the Philippines to expand market access for pork imports.

In April, the Philippines’ government lowered the tariff under the minimum access volume (MAV) of 404,210 MT of pork from 30% to 5% for the next three months, and then 10% thereafter. Pork entering the Philippines above the MAV would be reduced from 40% to 15% for the next three months, and then 20% thereafter. The reduced tariffs are in effect for one year. In 2020, the U.S. exported 49,660 MT of pork worth $121 million to the country. Expanded access to the Philippine market is expected to generate significantly more U.S. pork exports to the country.

NPPC will continue to seek enhanced market access to both the Philippines and Vietnam, which are in need of affordable, reliable sources of pork. Trade is crucial to the continued success of the U.S. pork industry. Other U.S. pork export market opportunities exist in Australia, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand and Ecuador.

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