Representatives of the main Latin American associations of pork producers and exporters, namely Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, presented their marketing strategies for consumption of this protein in their countries, as well as their current and future export plans.
Historically, pork has been the most produced and consumed protein worldwide. But 2019 brought a change in its leading position, which was overtaken by poultry. “This phenomenon is mostly explained by health issues, as we have witnessed how diseases such as African swine fever (ASF) have killed millions of pigs in various regions and continents around the world. We have seen the aggressiveness of the virus on farms. However, it also opens up new opportunities and these have promptly been seized,” said Iván Espinosa, Coordinator of the Mexican Pork Producers Organization’s (OPORMEX) Technical Council.
Latin America has not been exempted from this reality and it has been interesting how countries and industries have reacted to the changes in the market. Espinosa underscored that the region is facing the challenge of feeding the world, since it is rich in natural resources, labor, water, land, and governments that are also willing to keep exploiting this industry. It is easy to see how Latin America will be a long-term animal protein producer/supplier. “Currently, Latin America supplies 10% of meat exports worldwide. However, there are major marketing challenges linked to pig farming, such as climate change and animal welfare, and therefore we must support each other to develop new initiatives,” he highlighted.
Yannin Rivas, President of the Mexican Pig Veterinary Association (AMVEC), stated that per capita meat consumption in Mexico is 65 kilos per year. The country has a general deficit in meat production and the preferred animal protein is currently chicken, with a per capita consumption of 35 kilos. In the case of pork, per capita consumption is 19 kilos. Mexico ranks eighth among the main pork consumers,” she claimed. Currently, Mexico provides 2.8% of the world’s meat production.
Rivas stated: “our pig farming is highly fragmented. There are a number of mechanized farms; however, we only produce 1,570 kilos per sow each year. We are the third largest pork importer. We have a deficit, and we need to produce more.” Currently, the main pork producer in Mexico is the state of Jalisco.
Thanks to the leadership of producers and associated organizations from the middle of the country, Mexico’s slaughter weight has gone up, which is shown in the 7% annual growth in traded kilos of pork, despite a small drop in production. Similarly, the issue with ASF provided the opportunity to send pork to China as well as several Latin American countries. “It is not as demanding of a market as Japan, which does ask for specific cuts. The increase in exports to China was 258% in the 2019-2020 period, considering that 2018-2019 already saw a significant increase. “This is a great opportunity to continue exporting, as China is the world’s largest consumer of meat,” he highlighted.
Regarding challenges, the Mexican pork industry is not free of diseases, which have a large impact on production and economic results. The animal diseases present in Mexico are: Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, Influenza, and Porcine epidemic diarrhea. “The prices of raw materials force us to be more efficient when it comes to producing a kilo of pork. Marketing prices are challenging. We would like to know more about next year’s scenario, as it affects our domestic market prices.” Another interesting industry challenge mentioned by Rivas is the arrival of synthetic proteins to the market, which is no minor issue. She also highlighted: “the domestic market offers a great opportunity. Although there is a deficit, we have a large window to market Mexican pork. Therefore, we need to become more integrated: we are currently 8,000 producers who need to help each other out.” “I think our main deficit is the lack of an adequate campaign and strategy to promote pork consumption and its benefits within the country. In addition, it is imperative to increase mechanization and improve health standards to be able to keep supplying wholesale consumers in China while continuing exports to Japan, the United States, and South Korea,” she concluded.
Rodrigo Castañón, Chilecarne’s Business Manager, explained that the Chilean Pork Exporters’ Association brings together 88% of the country’s meat exports, and it works closely with the Pork Producers Trade Association, ASPROCER. Both associations manage the ChilePork brand, which celebrated its 14th anniversary this year, to position pork in the Asian market via events with importers and customers, cooking shows, and webinars, as he highlighted. Castañón then provided some industry figures, explaining that pork is the second most produced protein in Chile and the most exported. He reported that 859 million USD were exported in 2020. “It is also the third most consumed meat domestically, with 14 kilos per capita. Currently, 81% of production is exported, and 89% of exports go to Asia, with China being the main destination, followed by Japan and South Korea,” he continued. Castañón highlighted the industry’s primary assets: the 30 trade agreements that allow it to export to more than 65 markets. He also addressed the importance of the value of sustainability, and consequently, investing in state-of-the-art technology. He stated, “the Chilean pork industry follows high standards of health, safety, and biosecurity. For a small economy like ours, the only path to keep growing is exports, which are both an opportunity and a challenge that led us to follow these strict standards. We have an internationally renowned health authority, the Agricultural and Livestock Service, in addition to more than ten public-private surveillance programs across the production chain.”
Castañón also listed the challenges for the Chilean pork industry given the growing demand for animal protein: the need for clear policies and regulations on land use and odors, appealing to the new consumer (the use of antibiotics via the “Buena Salud” health program), animal welfare (certification of companies and efforts to create a standard for it), and environmentally-conscious production. And on the other hand, the opening of new markets (ASEAN, particularly the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand).
Ana María Trelles, General Manager of the Peruvian Association of Pork Producers, ASOPORCI, explained that they currently represent 80% of the Peruvian pork industry, and that the sector is focused on standing out within the domestic agricultural landscape.
She also talked about the pillars on which the association’s work is based, and the institutions they work with closely. Regarding access to the external market, in recent years pig farmers have been investing in improving genetic technology and best practices to be ready to export, as the access to external markets has meant jobs, the inflow of foreign currency, and the growth of the Peruvian pork sector.
On the other hand, ASOPORCI offers its members access to health advisory services thanks to its health department, as well as technical assistance for small producers in collaboration with the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Irrigation. The goal is to improve the health status of pig farms through technical visits and assistance for handling, health, and more. The association has also promoted scientific and technical modernization. In terms of promotion and communication, “in 2017 we started the program/campaign ‘Eat pork, eat healthy’ (Come cerdo, come sano). Currently, chicken is the most consumed protein in Peru, with a per capita average of 52-54 kilos, followed by fish with 18-20 kilos, and pork in third place with an estimate of 9 kilos for 2021 and a sustained growth expected by 2030. We are working hard with this campaign. It is a challenge being able to grow. We are using communication and marketing strategies to educate the consumer, debunk myths, break down stigmas, and disseminate the benefits of pork.” Trelles says that their goal is to increase local demand by creating daily consumption habits and exports at the international level.”
Adolfo Franke, President of the Argentine Association of Pork Producers (AAPP) said that: “up until 2004, pork production was geared almost exclusively to sausage production. Only 10% was consumed as fresh meat. There were myths about pork not being healthy. This, added to the difficulties in cooking it and the unwavering position of beef as the leading protein.” In 2006, the scenario changed. Many producers ventured into pork production, partly thanks to the country’s favorable conditions for this industry, such as the availability of cereal and corn, good health status (the National Service of Health and Food Quality, SENASA, has been quite demanding), favorable conditions for production, and the availability of human resources.
Franke talked about the evolution of meat consumption in the last 15 years, “in 2006, per capita meat consumption was 99 kilos per year and in 2020 we reached 112 kilos, a noticeable 14% increase.” According to him, pork consumption has evolved differently; going from 7.4% in 2006 to 15.6% per capita a year in 2020, “a significant jump,” he stated. Franke also shared some figures on meat production.
To promote consumption, the program “HoyCerdo!” (Today, pork!) was launched in 2006 as an industry initiative to convey the attributes of pork to health professionals, suggest recipes to be included in the Argentine diet, and teach techniques for butchering half-carcasses and obtaining different cuts to supermarket and neighborhood butchers. All of this with the goal of changing the population’s consumption habits. Another campaign, “Come bien, come cerdo!” (Eat well, eat pork!) was implemented between 2016 and 2018. Similarly, consumption has also been promoted during the pandemic, and sales at competitive prices were boosted in a network of butcher shops. “The expansion of the pork sector is a fact. There is a local market and an international market,” he stated.
“This year, the sector completed a strategic pork plan (2020-2030) that recommends correcting tax distortions, preserving the health status, improving the product’s image, and promoting consumption. Regarding production goals, we believe it would be exciting to double the number of productive sows and investments over the next ten years. Exports in 2020 represented 6% of production, with China absorbing 68% of exports,” Franke added. In terms of goals, the Argentinean pork sector forecasts that exports will represent over 30% of production in 2030, through market openings and trading of cuts. Some of its challenges are production sustainability, animal welfare, and prudent use of antibiotics, to name a few.
Liliana Galindo, Trading and Marketing Director of PorkColombia, said that “more than a decade ago, the Colombian Association of Pork Producers set a goal: to create a marketing area with the objective of increasing pork consumption in the market and among Colombian consumers, and thus increase consumption in and out of the home.”
She explained that the industry does not take a step forward without first conducting market research. “We set a communication ladder just like any commercial brand does,” Galindo said. “We assess and then move forward, and we already have forecasts for 2024 with clear goals for the pork industry, from the variety of cuts and their benefits, to food safety and animal health. The idea is to normalize everyday consumption of this protein,” Galindo highlighted.
She also provided figures on the evolution of pork consumption in Colombia: In 2010, per capita consumption was 4.8 kilos, while in 2020 – ten years later- each person was eating an average of 10.8 kilos of this protein. “We are focusing on our pig farmers with this strategy. We know that we still have a lot of work to do, but we continue communicating this notion of the versatility of pork. The pork sector in Colombia is quite tough. We have come out stronger and that is our focus for 2021. We will continue to focus on the versatility of pork recipes. We want to make a difference in that the pork we put on the table is Colombian,” she concluded.