This week the White House announced in a news release that the U.S. and Argentina have reached an agreement that will allow U.S. pork to be exported to Argentina for the first time since 1992.
Brazil is currently Argentina’s primary supplier of imported pork, and will likely export about 32,000 metric tons (mt) of pork to Argentina this year, valued at about $95 million. Argentina is 90 percent self-sufficient in pork production but based on past performance, the Argentine pork market has room for further import growth, as imports were as high as 47,000 mt in 2011. After importing very low volumes from 2012 through 2015, imports rebounded last year to nearly 27,000 mt. Brazil captured more than 90 percent of the market, with the remainder provided by European suppliers (mainly frozen pork from Denmark, and cured products from Spain and Italy). This upward trend in imports has continued in 2017, as Argentina’s imports through May were up 75 percent year-over-year in volume (15,418 mt) and nearly doubled in value ($49.1 million, up 97 percent).
Argentina’s per capita pork consumption has grown rapidly over the past several years, increasing 57 percent since 2011 to an estimated 13.5 kg this year (carcass weight equivalent), based on USDA estimates. This compares to beef consumption at 56.7 kg and poultry at 43.9 kg, but beef consumption is well off its highs of the early 2000s and poultry consumption has increased only 18 percent since 2011. USMEF expects there will be demand in the Argentine market for U.S. pork – such as hams, picnics and trimmings – to be used as raw material for further processing, but also the potential to build demand for U.S.-produced processed products.
While the White House announcement is a very positive development for the U.S. industry, it is important to note that several steps remain before pork shipments to Argentina can begin. The news release notes that Argentine food safety officials will visit the U.S. to conduct on-site verification of the meat inspection system, and that exports will resume once any outstanding technical issues are resolved. USMEF will report further on these steps, and on any updates to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Export Library for Argentina, when more details become available.