The National Pork Producers Council today hailed the Republic of Korea’s decision to inspect only a sample of U.S. pork exports rather than 100 percent of them and to lift a ban on live hog imports from the United States. The restrictions were put in place in the wake of the H1N1 flu outbreak.
South Korea’s decision was good news for U.S. pork producers, said NPPC President Don Butler. NPPC had been working closely with U.S. and foreign government officials to terminate all remaining H1N1 restrictions on U.S. hog and pork exports. Korea was a top market for U.S. pork exports and an important destination for swine breeding stock.
The U.S. pork industry since September 2007 has lost nearly $4.5 billion, and producers have lost an average of more than $21 per hog marketed since then. While high production costs – mostly feed grain prices – are the primary culprit for the industry’s economic woes, restrictions on U.S. pork and hog exports put in place in early May by a number of countries that cited fears of H1N1 exacerbated the problems.
In 2008 South Korea was the sixth largest market for U.S. pork, with exports valued at $284 million. In 2009 exports to Korea through May were down 10 percent by volume and 7 percent in value. Breeding stock exports to South Korea also are down in 2009 because of the H1N1-related ban. The country ranked as a top destination for U.S. live hogs in 2008 with exports of $1.1 million.
Korea’s decision to lift the restrictions will reignite enthusiasm for the U.S.-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement, which contains tremendous benefits for U.S. pork producers, according to NPPC, which helped secure favorable treatment for U.S. pork and pork products. According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, when the FTA is fully implemented, U.S. pork exports to the Asian nation will rise to nearly 600,000 metric tons. That’s significantly more than the amount currently shipped to Japan, the No. 1 export market for U.S. pork. Hayes also estimates that the FTA will increase by $10 the price producers receive for each hog marketed.
The trade deal with South Korea was made possible in part because of the effective working relationship between NPPC and the National Pork Checkoff Board and their shared goal of increasing U.S. pork exports.
Source: National Pork Producers Council