Building Markets in China

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Building Markets in China


Don Wick


Steve Rommereim, South Dakota Pork Producer & Vice President , National Pork Board




Don Wick:  00:04  From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod.  Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. This is Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff. Today our guest is Steve Rommereim, who is a South Dakota pork producer and Vice President of the National Pork Board. Steve was one of three National Pork Board Executive Officers and two senior staff members who made the trip to both China and Japan. This trip to Southeast Asia a fact finding mission to learn more about these important export markets. Steve it sounds like a very impressive trip.

Steve Rommereim:  00:44  Certainly!  I tell you what I was being over there we were 11 days, just kind of in awe at these markets there. Pork of course is just top of mind for these folks. You know that’s the major part of their protein diet in both countries. And while, as you mentioned Japan and China are very different,  they’re very much the same in their eating habits.

Don Wick:  01:05  So is this U.S. pork is a favorite when we look at these two countries?

Steve Rommereim:  01:11  You know I saw in Japan. Yes. I would say in Japan that they’re very interested and excited because they’re all about quality. We went to a lot of retail markets and I have never seen people study their food as much as the Japanese. They would pick up a package after package and compare the chops or the ribs or whatever it was they were looking for to take home. And very, very selective and want that eating experience daily and it kind of amazed me too that I think refrigerator space is limited. And so they pretty much go shopping every day and in the Japanese market they’re all about quality. I don’t think they care as much about price and where it comes from. Now the Chinese market I think those folks really kind of want to be self-sufficient. So it’s a little harder to break in with pork from another country.  Now because you know they’re basically 98 percent self-sufficient in China.

Steve Rommereim:  02:10  But what’s interesting is that that 2 percent that’s left that they go after in other countries for imports is just a huge number. Five percent of their consumption in China is our entire production in America of pork. And so it’s kind of hard to get wrap yourself around just the sheer volume of what it takes to feed everybody in China. So while they wish to be self-sufficient they still have to feed their people. Pork is a favorite protein. And you know we’re getting into that market there, we actually have a U.S. packing firm and there are a couple actually in that country and they’re starting to niche away at that market. We need to stay at it. It certainly is a great opportunity for America’s pork producers.

Don Wick:  03:05  To see growth, obviously, you have to maintain trust with both the consumers and the buyers in those marketplaces. US Meat Export Federation is the partner to  Pork Checkoff. How would you gauge what they’re doing in those two markets?

Steve Rommereim:  03:17  Well I tell our partners in USMEF are extremely dedicated the producer.  You know they’re part of the culture. They really know the demands of the consumer. And I personally was very surprised at how involved they all are and in all the segments of the food chain, you know, whether it come to harvesting the hog, the processing, the wholesale and retail markets. Very complex process that these folks go through to get their product to the consumer. But USMEF just has this broad range of influence. And you know kind of works with the top level of the folks that are that are doing all this over there. So I was I was really pleased with their engagement and really hold USMEF in high regard. They do the job that it would take us just years and years and years to get into that system and try to make any influence whatsoever.

Steve Rommereim:  04:11  So while exports are always a fickle market, our industry here in America is going to be pretty highly dependent. I don’t know if you know this has been talked about but right now 27 and a half percent of all the pork produced in America is exported.  And of course, quite a bit of our variety meats, if you will, are exported, because some of that stuff just isn’t common here in America and in many parts.  So USMEF is extremely valued right now. Exports return about $54 a head to every hog that’s marketed so that that’s a huge, huge top off for America’s producers.

Don Wick:  04:53  But relationships certainly are important when we’re working in particularly Southeast Asia, but with every buyer.  Having boots on the ground and having that face to face contact had to be important.

Steve Rommereim:  05:06  Oh well said!  It certainly is.  As I mentioned, you know, it would be years for us to break into these markets and these folks are there. Their feet are on the ground and they are essentially doing very very good work. Again not only in China and Japan, our largest volume market is Mexico and they have a huge presence down there as well.  Working, you know, kind of breaking some of these other markets, South Korea, Vietnam, Central America. I mean there’s there’s a lot of markets that need protein for their people. Pork is very desired and USMEF is doing a great job for us.  So I can’t really say enough about this in our toolbox as being a really good one. So our best tools, you know, to build more market share over there is you know is a trust as we talked about in our product is being safe and very good.

Steve Rommereim:  06:03  You know to really work hard to meeting their demands as far as like cut specifications and quality specifications and so on. You know we have to be on top of that for them to want to buy our product over, let’s say, Canada or the EU, who are you know actually shipping quite a bit of pork into China right now as well. And of course price and quality are hugely important so I think we as an industry need to keep kind of working towards that goal. And it may have some costs, it may have you know some things we need to do and change to meet that market. But with the growth going on right now in America in the pork industry, whether it be production or processing,  there’s a lot of it happening right now.

Steve Rommereim:  06:47  And we’ve got to get rid of another five or six percent of our production whether domestically in country or on our export markets.  We just got to keep striving towards that, and National Pork Board  and Pork Producers Council keep chipping away at this stuff and we keep coming up with new and better ways to improve our product, improve our quality, and to try to match the demands of these export markets. So I think that’s very important for us to continue in that. And we need to keep pitching resources towards that.

Don Wick:  07:18  Thanks to you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod.   For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff off itself, please visit