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Argentina buys U.S. pork for first time in 26 years

WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the first time since 1992, the government of Argentina has finalized an export certificate allowing U.S. pork imports into the South American country, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer announced on April 16.

“This breakthrough is the result of efforts by this administration to help America’s farmers and ranchers reach new markets and ensure fair trade practices by our international partners,” Perdue said, referring a meeting last August between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Argentine President Mauricio Macri during the former’s visit to Buenos Aires.

For the last 26 years, Argentina has blocked imports of U.S. pork, citing animal health concerns. Under terms of the agreement, all fresh, chilled and frozen pork and pork products from U.S. animals will be eligible for export to Argentina.

Since the White House’s announcement of the agreement last August, USDA technical staff and the Office of the USTR have been working with Argentina’s Ministry of Agro-Industry on new terms for market access that are “practical, science-based and consistent with relevant international animal health standards.”

Perdue said the finalization of these technical requirements means U.S. exports of pork and natural swine casings can now resume.

“Once the people of Argentina get a taste of American pork products after all this time, we’re sure they’ll want more of it,” he said. “This is a great day for our agriculture community and an example of how the Trump administration is committed to supporting our producers by opening new markets for their products.”

The United States is the world’s top pork exporter, with global sales totaling $6.5 billion last year. Argentina is a potential $10 million per-year market for American pork producers, with significant growth opportunities possible in subsequent years.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said it helped the USDA address concerns raised by Argentine officials. Last October, it also urged the Office of the USTR to reinstate Argentina’s eligibility for the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences.

The NPPC explained the move would allow some foreign products into the United States without tariffs, after the country agreed to re-open its market to U.S. pork imports. Dermot Hayes, an Iowa State University agricultural economist, said fresh pork consumption in Argentina has increased from about 2 pounds annually per capita in 2005 to 22-26 pounds today.

In addition, the Argentine pork industry estimated consumption will increase to 35-44 pounds by 2020.

“Argentina has tremendous potential for U.S. pork exports,” said Jim Heimerl, NPPC president and a Johnstown, Ohio, farmer. “This is great news for America’s pork producers, who last year exported almost $6.5 billion of pork around the world.”

He said the export certificate allowing the shipment of fresh, frozen and processed pork to the country demonstrates the Argentine government’s commitment to expanded and open trade with the U.S.

“And it will help us grow our exports, which the U.S. pork industry is very dependent on,” he said, adding last year’s exports added more than $53 to the price the U.S. received for each animal marketed, representing almost 36 percent of the $149 average value of a hog in 2017.

Dan Halstrom, U.S. Meat Export Federation president and CEO, said the USMEF has been researching the Argentine market for some time in order to identify commercial opportunities for U.S. pork. He said Jessica Julca, USMEF South America representative, met with importers and other prospective buyers in Argentina from April 16-20.

“Expanding the range of export opportunities for U.S. red meat is especially important at a time of increased uncertainty in some of our leading markets,” he said.

“U.S. pork exports have achieved excellent growth in South America in recent years, with most of the volume destined for Colombia, Chile and Peru. U.S. pork is also eligible for export to Ecuador and Uruguay, and recently gained access to Paraguay.”