By Jan Archer, National Pork Board member
“Skate to where the puck will be.” While that quote is often attributed to the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky, Wayne himself credits his Dad with this particular pearl of wisdom. The National Pork Board’s (NPB) International Marketing Committee (IMC) is tasked with helping to figure out where to most effectively spend producer’s hard earned dollars to export our product, and correspondingly, increase their bottom line. The challenge is balancing our current export markets with what may be on the horizon. Where is the puck going to be?
This month, the committee will travel to Asia to look at markets in some of the fastest growing economies in the world and evaluate their consumer desires and product needs as potential as markets for U.S. pork. We will visit Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macau. The countries included in this trade mission were determined based on extensive research by NPB, the U.S. Meat Export Federation and international economic consultants familiar with what is currently happening in those countries as well as their exciting potential for increasing pork exports.
My husband and I lived, worked and raised pigs in Singapore 30 years ago. At that time, there was a large domestic industry, but the small island nation was quickly becoming a very cosmopolitan city. Today, Singapore is a multicultural island with ethnic Chinese making up more than 75 percent of its population. Pork is, very much, the protein of choice. Today, much of the domestic industry is gone and in its place is a booming city. Singapore’s huge population relies on imports to provide its most consumed protein. I am anxious to revisit that market and see how we might feed Singapore’s future.
Vietnam is a country of 80 million people and is one of the fastest growing markets for all U.S. agricultural exports. With Vietnam’s growing middle class and increased purchasing power, America’s pork producers must be ready to capture this opportunity. Vietnam has a significant domestic pork industry, though most pigs are still produced on small backyard lots, and most feed must be imported making the cost of production an ongoing challenge. Additionally, Vietnam’s farmers are aging, creating labor shortages. As a result, Vietnam is a good market for variety meats and hopefully an emerging market for U.S. muscle cuts.
Hong Kong and Macau are big, bustling cities with huge appetites. The culinary scene is some of the most exciting and innovative in the world as so many cultures, and cuisines meet in Hong Kong. Macau is home to one of the world’s largest casinos, where discerning consumers demand culinary excitement and excellence. Pork fits beautifully into that mix, and American pork—with its reputation for safety and consistent quality—already has a place in the meat case and high-end restaurants. Can we increase our market share there? What can we do to meet the needs of those customers?
There are a lot of questions to be answered on this trip and insights to be gained. The members of the IMC, under the leadership of Dr. Craig Morris and in partnership with the U.S. Meat Export Federation, have been studying these markets and preparing for this trip for a long time to make sure the time is well spent and our Checkoff investors are well represented. I can’t wait to share what we learn!