Why does the Mexico export market matter so much to U.S. pork?
How has Mexican protein consumption been shifting?
How can we grow exports to Mexico?
These are just a few of the questions the Pork Leadership Institute class of 2022 will be asking as they travel south this week to do a deep dive of the pork market in Mexico. Conducted jointly by the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board, this group of producers and industry leaders will be learning about the increased market-specific Checkoff investments in Mexico. In addition, they’ll explore how the Checkoff’s differentiation and development strategy is resulting in positive returns and agreements benefiting U.S. Pork.
“The U.S. is the most efficient high-quality producer in the world,” Courtney Knupp, vice president of international market development for the National Pork Board and 2012 PLI graduate, shared with the 2022 PLI class in Mexico City on Wednesday. “That’s something to be proud about.”
She said U.S. exports are forecasted to continue to grow through 2030. Meanwhile, the European Union, U.S. pork’s biggest competitor, is projected to decrease about 5% to 6% because their “environmental and regulatory requirements are not fostering expansion and they are incurring disease issues.”
The world is changing, Knupp explained, and so is the export market. It’s more important than ever to build markets beyond reliance on China.
“We want to try to control what is in our realm of control. And that’s why putting dollars and focus on building markets out, so we have as many places to pivot as possible any day because things change whether it’s the value of the dollar or an animal disease,” Knupp said.
A Look at U.S. Pork in Mexico
U.S. pork exports for Jan.-Aug. 2022 reached 1.72 million metric tons worth $4.9 billion, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). This export level equated to $59.40 per head slaughtered, accounting for 26.9% of total pork production.
Of the 82% import share U.S. pork has in Mexico, 56% is ham and 18% are variety meats, according to USMEF data.
“While an environment of rising prices can potentially slow strong global demand for U.S. red meat, it also brings marketing opportunities as consumers and the trade look to reduce costs,” USMEF said.
For example, in Mexico and Central America, USMEF utilizes mobile grill programs to conduct educational workshops about U.S. pork for distributors and their end-user customers. A primary goal of the workshops is to introduce and demonstrate how to cost effectively utilize and promote alternative U.S. pork cuts, including loins, and variety meats through grilling and alternative cooking methods for new and traditional Mexican dishes.
For the third year, National Pork Board has applied for the Quality Samples Program offered by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
“This program allows you to send samples of products into the market to expand your mix and to grow it,” Knupp explained.
Up Close and Personal
For Heidi Flory, a member of PLI’s 2022 class, the best way to understand a foreign marketplace is to visit one.
“I think it’s pretty neat to be able to see U.S pork in Mexico grocery stores and see how our product is marketed in other countries and how different it is than the United States,” Flory said. “Especially the food safety procedures – if people are concerned about the way that things are done in the United States, I would encourage them to travel internationally.”
Gerardo Rodriguez, regional director for USMEF in Mexico, Central American and the Dominican Republic, agreed that there is great value in bringing producers to see firsthand what’s taking place in markets where U.S. pork is exported to see how Checkoff dollars are being used for promotion, education and training.
“We are creating what we want to harvest in the long run, getting ready for the future and for the next generation,” Rodriguez said. “But at the same time, we’re very concerned and working on the short term. Today, what is going on in the market? How can we deal with competition? We are developing new markets and giving more value to the products.”
He pointed out that it’s equally important for the importers for Mexican customers to see U.S. farmers interested in what is being done with their products.
“This is a two-way street. Just as it is important for the producers, it is also important for the importers to build this relationship,” Rodriguez said.