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Concentration within pork export markets evolves

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China’s growing share of U.S. pork exports over past two years especially notable.

Concentration within pork export markets has changed recently, especially given the severe impact African swine fever has overseas. Using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, Kansas State University economist Glynn Tonsor recently published new insight into specifically how U.S. pork exports have evolved.

Tonsor did mention it is worth considering that U.S. pork exports had already been steadily increasing over the past few decades. In 2020, they totaled 6.56 billion pounds, which is more than 5 times the 1.28 billion pounds that they were in 2000. Still, it has been China’s growing share of U.S. pork exports over the past two years that is especially notable. In 2020, China imported 2.20 billion pounds of U.S. pork, which was a 33% share of total U.S. pork exports and a sizable increase from the 9% export share China held in 2018.

Kansas State UniversityKState pork export graph.png

However, compared to the level of concentration in the late 1980s through early 2000s, Tonsor said U.S. pork exports are still largely more diversified today than in the past, even with China’s increased role.

China’s demand for pork

According to Tonsor, unlike many U.S. consumers, Chinese consumers demand a great deal of pork variety cuts, including products such as hog guts, feet, hearts, tongues, etc. In 2020, the U.S. exported 1.03 billion pounds of pork variety cuts. Of that, 56% or 579 million pounds went to China, generating $632 million in value. This, Tonsor noted, means 26% of the 2.20 billion pounds of U.S. pork exported to China in 2020 were in the form of variety cuts.

“China’s demand for variety products enhances the value of U.S. pork and allows processors to utilize and market nearly every portion of a hog,” said Tonsor, adding that China was the key market in 2020 for several U.S. pork variety cut exports.

Kansas State UniversityKState China variety meats.png

While the U.S. has been exporting a large volume of pork to China, Tonsor said it is careless to assume that their demand for U.S. pork mimics that of consumers in the U.S.

Click here to view the full insight from Tonsor. 

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