With U.S. pork facing trade barriers in some of its largest destinations, building strong demand in Central America and the Dominican Republic has been especially critical for the U.S. pork industry.
Exports to Central America are coming off a record performance in 2018, and through April of this year were up another 11% in volume (29,321 metric tons) and 8% in value ($68.3 million).
Honduras and Guatemala are the largest Central American markets for U.S. pork, but growth leaders in 2019 include Costa Rica, where exports have increased more than 40% year-over-year, and Panama, where shipments are up more than 30%.
Exports to the Dominican Republic - the largest destination for U.S. pork in the region covered by the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) - are also ahead of last year's record pace, with exports through April totaling 14,170 metric tons valued at $31.1 million.
Gerardo Rodriguez, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) regional marketing director for Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic, notes that educational programs have been an essential component of USMEF's promotional efforts in the CAFTA-DR region, as more customers now appreciate the high quality of U.S. pork and understand the importance of not overcooking the product.
He adds that U.S. pork has benefited tremendously from the market access gains secured in CAFTA-DR. By lowering tariff rates and creating larger tariff rate quotas (TRQs), this agreement has expanded opportunities for a wide range of U.S. pork cuts in the region's retail, foodservice and processing sectors.