Pork Checkoff Concentrates on International Demand

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Don Wick


Norman Bessac, Vice President, International Marketing, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:00 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. And today our guest is Norman Bessac, who is the vice president of international marketing for the Pork Checkoff. And Norman, as we move into this new year, give us an idea. What are the marching orders for trade? What are we looking at as far as international marketing from the Pork Checkoff perspective?

Norman Bessac: 00:33 Well Don, I think there’s a couple things that you look at. You know, if you, just a quick review of the numbers, we’re sitting with record production in the US and more hogs coming at us and yet our values are, are holding pretty steady. And no doubt, exports has played the role in helping keep those values up and we continue to see the demand to be strong for exports into 2020. Obviously, ASF is one of the underwriting factors that continues to fuel that growth. I think the big thing for us as we look at US pork is to certainly take advantage of the opportunities we’re going to have in China, in the ASEAN markets, that have been affected by ASF, to take advantage of that trading opportunity. But we, at the same time, can’t look past those customers in those countries that have been with us for the long haul. And I’m really speaking of Japan and Mexico. It’s very encouraging to go into this new year now that we have trade agreements in place. And we can focus on continuing to build confidence and grow our volume in those critical markets. So I think there’s, 2020 will be a year of opportunity from where ASF has affected some of these markets, but also opportunity in continuing to develop markets that have been around here for a while.

Don Wick: 02:06 Well, certainly if you look at Japan and Mexico, we’ve got the new trade agreement, now taking effect with Japan and obviously we’re moving forward on USMCA, big markets already. What kind of potential do you see as we as we look for those trade agreements?

Norman Bessac: 02:22 Well, I think first and foremost, hats off to our friends at National Pork Producers Council, Nick Giordano and his team have done a great job at making sure we have access to those markets and getting those agreements in place so that we can now go play ball in those markets on an even playing field. That has not been the case here most recently. And so it’s, it’s good to be back on an equal footing. You know, customers around the world, consumers around the world, are looking for a great tasting product that they can have confidence in buying, and pork is certainly fits that category. And I think we have as US pork, have a tremendous value. We just need to go back into those markets and build confidence and build sustainable purchases behind those products now that we are on an even playing field. And so I think that’s going back in, engaging the right customers, talking to consumers about the quality, the safety, and eating quality of the US pork product. And I think if we do that, we’ll be just fine.

Don Wick: 03:45 So all of this really done in combination with the US Meat Export Federation?

Norman Bessac: 03:51 Exactly! We, you know, we invest our checkoff dollars through USMEF, and by doing that are able to create even more value because we receive matching funds both from the USDA, but then also our friends in pork, and I’m sorry, our friends in corn and soybeans also contribute through those organizations. So it just amplifies the capability that we have to go out and promote, educate and also to find out the insights that will help the industry grow.

Don Wick: 04:29 Any different strategies for 2020?

Norman Bessac: 04:34 I think clearly ASF and its impact has caused us to look very closely at the way we do promotions in markets, in making sure that we’re capitalizing on that trading opportunity. I think the other place that we probably had a wake-up call is if we look at some of the competitors that have been able to make inroads in some of our core markets like Japan and Mexico. And make sure that we have a strong message that resonates with consumers and customers and differentiate US pork from those other, those other options and puts us front and center with what we believe we can deliver. And that’s really what I mean by building confidence. We, I think, have to go back through the basics and not to take things for granted and recognize that there are competitive options out there. So I think the strategy is very similar to where we’ve been, but sharpening our execution, especially in Japan, Mexico, Korea, is where we need to focus in the next year,

Don Wick: 06:01 All markets, but I would say particularly those Asian markets, relationships are so very important. Does that mean more producers would with boots on the ground and making those connections with buyers overseas?

Norman Bessac: 06:13 You know, producers, every time they go, ” We Care”, the “We Care” initiative really works. When producers talk about what they do in their operations and they can look a customer in the eye and talk about the way that they’re investing in pork and in meeting the needs, both on animal welfare or on sustainability, and talk about the success that they’ve had in producing more with less and being a good steward of the environment, that really resonates and builds trust with those foreign consumers and really paves the way once that confidence is built for the commercial sellers of pork. So the commercial guys coming in and actually transacting the business, it just paves the way and makes their job easier. So certainly see producers being boots on the ground and building confidence with US pork and telling their story in the global markets in 2020.

Don Wick: 07:21 Norman, how does the US product compare with some of our competitors worldwide, Europe, Brazil, those kinds of places?

Norman Bessac: 07:29 I think very well. We have a unique production system here. That gives us some tremendous, tremendous advantages. I don’t think there’s many countries that can produce the quality of pork as efficiently and as effectively as the US. There have been some competitors that have…who have probably done a good job telling their story and giving customers and consumers choices. So again, I think we’ve got to go back in and emphasize the quality, consistency, and value that our products offer. And while that may not satisfy every customer or consumer need, I believe it puts us in a strong leadership position.

Don Wick: 08:22 Thank you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit pork.org.