Beef exports to the Middle East also continued to post strong growth, with volume (80,204 metric tons) up 38 percent from last year and value ($153.7 million) running 51 percent higher.

 “Heavy purchasing activity early in the year has led to high inventories in certain Asian markets, so it’s not unexpected that we would see some cooling off of our beef exports to these countries,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng.

“But this confirms the need for continued, aggressive promotion, so we can keep export growth to Asia strong throughout the year. It’s also very encouraging to see exports performing so well in the Western Hemisphere and the Middle East.”

South Korea has taken bold measures in recent months to deal with its dwindling pork supplies and rising prices, and U.S. pork has been well-positioned to capitalize.

With duty-free access on certain cuts and aggressive marketing programs firmly in place, U.S. pork exports to Korea reached 122,880 metric tons valued at $301.5 million.

This represented a 145 percent increase in volume over the first half of last year, and nearly triple the value.

Coming off a record value year in 2010 of more than $1.6 billion, pork exports to Japan have increased another 10 percent in volume (249,417 metric tons) and 13 percent in value ($944.2 million) through the first half of this year.

Exports to Canada have grown at a similar pace — achieving a 10 percent increase in volume (97,204 metric tons) and 12 percent growth in value ($335 million). The Hong Kong/China region — where access was limited in the early months of 2010 — was up 42 percent in volume (173,462 metric tons) and 30 percent in value ($260.5 million).

 “The situation in Korea stems from some unfortunate circumstances, as its hog herd has been devastated by foot-and-mouth disease,” Seng said.

“But it makes for an interesting case study for the remarkable growth we can achieve when we are not saddled with a 25 percent tariff — something our members of Congress need to consider as they debate the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

“In addition, we’ve seen the market share for U.S. pork increase versus our competition under comparable access conditions.”