Despite COVID-related challenges, U.S. pork exports to Central America set a new record in 2020 and are off to a terrific start this year. Through February, exports to the region increased 46% from a year ago to nearly 22,000 metric tons, valued at more than $53 million (up 38%). February exports were record-large to Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica, while exports to Honduras were the fourth highest on record.
Lucia Ruano, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) representative in Central America and the Dominican Republic, explains that COVID restrictions in the foodservice and hospitality sectors caused significant changes in pork sales channels and consumption patterns, including the establishment of many meat boutiques where shoppers could purchase U.S. pork cuts for in-home preparation. USMEF’s consumer outreach efforts, which included educational webinars and a region-wide radio campaign, focused specifically on loin cuts, showcasing the loin as a versatile center-of-the-plate item.
Ruano adds that tariff relief from the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) is now more widespread in the region, making U.S. pork more affordable in countries such as Costa Rica. In Honduras, the region’s leading destination for U.S. pork, domestic pork production also suffered setbacks from recent hurricanes.
The U.S. Meat Export Federation (www.USMEF.org) is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry. It is funded by USDA; the beef, pork, lamb, corn and soybean checkoff programs, as well as its members representing nine industry sectors: beef/veal producing & feeding, pork producing & feeding, lamb producing & feeding, packing & processing, purveying & trading, oilseeds producing, feedgrains producing, farm organizations and supply & service organizations. USMEF complies with all equal opportunity, non-discrimination and affirmative action measures applicable to it by contract, government rule or regulation or as otherwise provided by law. USMEF is an equal opportunity employer and provider.