This week, farmer leaders from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board have spent a few days learning more about red meat exports during the US Meat Export Federation meeting in Tuscon, AZ.
In his address to USMEF members, President and CEO Philip Seng emphasized the fierce competition that exists in key markets and urged the U.S. industry to remain committed to aggressive promotion and product differentiation.
Seng displayed a slide of more than 20 pork-exporting countries that are competing for market share in Japan. While the United States is the leading exporter of pork to this market and holds an especially strong share of the high-value chilled pork market, he emphasized that this position cannot be taken for granted.
“Some people might say that perhaps we are in the post-promotion phase of what we do in Japan,” Seng said. “But we’re supplying about 72 percent of the chilled pork in this market and this is fresh pork that is fully ready for consumer use. So the role of promotion is very critical, and it’s not just marketing in a retail or restaurant setting. It’s also imaging the U.S. industry, accommodating the specific needs of our customers and positioning our industry for success.”
Seng cited Hong Kong, one of the most rapidly growing destinations for U.S. beef, as another market where competitors are out in full force. Though limited to boneless cuts from cattle less than 30 months of age, this year’s U.S. beef exports to Hong Kong have more than tripled their 2009 pace.
“There are more than 40 countries currently supplying beef to Hong Kong, which shows you just how competitive the international marketplace really is,” Seng said. “This also illustrates how important it is that we differentiate our product. Our competition is well aware of the opportunities in these key markets and they are doing everything they can to avail themselves of those opportunities.”
Seng also stressed the advantages of having experienced USMEF staff stationed in major markets and the important role they play in giving U.S. products a competitive edge.
“When you go to an international market, you know what you are saying – but do you always know what your customers are hearing?” he said. “This is something we learned very early on at USMEF – that you can’t take anything for granted, and you really have to understand the culture if you are going to be a factor in these markets.”
The Illinois Corn Marketing Board is a supporter and funder of the USMEF, helping to export value-added corn in the form of meat, out of the country. For more information visit www.ilcorn.org or www.usmef.org.