The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has given the green light for Mexican pork producers to export their product to the U.S. market after determining that the country is free of classical swine fever (CSF).
The decision came after a science-based risk assessment by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) concluded Friday.
The ruling was backed by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), a U.S. trade association that represents around 60,000 pig farmers.
“The U.S. pork industry is a strong supporter of free trade and of using epidemiological science and risk analyses to determine if trade can be safely conducted between countries,” NPPC president Ken Maschhoff said.
“Mexico in 2017 was our No. 2 export market, so maintaining our good relationship with that country by ensuring fair and reciprocal trade is paramount for our producers,” he added.
CSF, also known as hog cholera, is a highly contagious porcine disease that was eradicated in the U.S. in the late 1970s but remained a threat in some parts of Mexico for considerably longer.
The APHIS previously recognized that eight central Mexico states were free of CSF and consequently approved their pork exports but in response to a Mexican government request, the agency conducted a thorough review of the whole country.
It determined that the risk of introducing CSF into the United States through imports of live swine, swine genetics, pork and pork products is very low and subsequently approved exports from all Mexican states under the same conditions as outlined in its existing import regulations.
Those regulations stipulate that pork and pork products sent to the U.S. must be accompanied by a certificate issued by a Mexican government veterinary officer attesting that the pigs were raised and slaughtered in a CSF-free environment.
In response to the easing of restrictions, the Confederation of Mexican Pork Producers said that exports could grow by up to 144% “in the short term.”
Confederation president José Luis Caram Inclán told the newspaper Milenio that the Mexico wide CSF-free ruling would enable pork producers from all states to freely take their animals to slaughterhouses that already have export approval.
Total shipments of 123,000 tonnes of pork to the U.S. market in 2017 could consequently increase to up to 300,000 tonnes annually, he said. Substantially higher sales, worth in excess of US $1.4 billion last year, would follow.
Caram added that farmers from Veracruz, Jalisco, Michoacán, Guanajuato and other pork-producing states that previously couldn’t send their product to the U.S. were now free to do so.
If the ambitious 300,000-tonne target is reached, the United States will overtake Japan to become the Mexican pork industry’s number-one export destination.
Mexico currently sends around 180,000 tonnes of pork annually to the Asian nation.