craig morris vice president international marketing
by Craig Morris, Vice President of International Marketing for the Pork Checkoff

By Craig Morris

Headlines about trade policy have been, admittedly, anything but comforting this summer, with the United States’ relationships with Mexico and China front-page news. Agriculture, and pork specifically, has often taken top billing.

The National Pork Board can do little with Checkoff dollars to directly control the outcome of the incredibly complex trade policy discussions. But the board’s partner, the National Pork Producers Council, works to ensure that the interests of the U.S. pork industry remain top-of-mind for the powers that be in Washington, D.C.

“What the Pork Board can control, however, is the Pork Checkoff investment in foreign markets and the long-term strategy around international marketing.”

Exports are critical to the continued success of the U.S. pork industry, which exported 26.6 percent of production in 2017. Before trade issues arose this year, the United States was poised to pass the European Union to become the world’s No. 1 exporter of pork and pork products.

Weathering the Storm
Those principles – the bedrock of the board’s long-term international marketing strategy – remain steadfast regardless of trade policy challenges. Sticking to the principles, U.S. pork producers can batten down the hatches and weather just about any trade-war storm.

Pork Board leadership, with the guidance of the Pork Checkoff’s producer-led International Marketing Committee, sets international marketing strategy and decides how to invest Checkoff resources. With its strategic partner, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), the board identifies populations interested in pork and then positions U.S. pork as the supplier of choice.

While focusing on emerging markets, it also is important to maintain existing relationships with the largest and strongest U.S. export market partners. Not putting all of the bacon in one basket is critical, especially in these politically charged times.

Specifically, the International Marketing Committee proposed increasing the investment in the burgeoning South American, Central American and Caribbean markets (see above). The Pork Checkoff has been working with USMEF to identify new opportunities in those markets.

The Pork Board also has devoted resources to rapidly growing markets in Asia, such as South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. The International Marketing Committee will meet with key government officials, traders and retail partners in Singapore and Vietnam this fall to forge meaningful relationships and gather market insights.

Rapidly Growing Pie
Emerging markets do not yet equal the trading partner powerhouses of Mexico and China, but together they present a tremendous opportunity for growth. As consumption patterns evolve in these countries, consumers are demanding more pork, which offers a great opportunity for U.S. pork producers to grab a larger share of a rapidly growing pie.

Learning about the new consumers is critical to the Pork Board’s long-term strategy, just as consumer insights are core to domestic marketing efforts. Pork 2040, a joint Pork Board, USMEF and USDA project, will look at markets of the future, such as India and Nigeria.

While trade policy uncertainty is no doubt unsettling, the truth is that the producer-led leadership at the Pork Board has likened its efforts to the North Star – a constant to help navigate these choppy waters.

Working with its partners and leveraging Checkoff resources strategically, the board can swiftly act to capitalize on markets where U.S. pork can reign supreme, markets far outside the gamesmanship of current trade negotiations. Sticking to this strategy will help U.S. pork succeed.

The Pork Checkoff’s international marketing strategy centers on three principles:

  • Identify and maintain relationships in current and emerging markets;
  • Deploy Pork Checkoff resources strategically and efficiently in countries; and
  • Gather valuable insights on new and emerging markets and measure progress against international marketing objectives.