Live animal exports are just a small percentage of the overall export market, but this segment is important and growing.
Anthony (Tony) Clayton has more than 25 years of experience in the exportation of livestock and other agricultural products from the U.S. Before establishing his own company, Clayton was employed by the Missouri Department of Agriculture as a Coordinator of the International Marketing Program for seven years. In this position, he was responsible for promotion and marketing of Missouri's livestock industry to producers all over the world.
Clayton Agri-Marketing, Inc. is considered one of the leading livestock and agricultural exporters in the United States and has successfully exported live-animal genetics and related agricultural equipment to 46 different countries.
Clayton said China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Korea show the most potential for live swine exports in the immediate future, but the market for high quality breeding stock is growing exponentially due to greater demand for more protein.
"Many people have more money to spend from a developing middle class," said Clayton. "If you have more money, you buy a better television and car, and you eat better, thus the demand for protein from meat and milk."
Health is a Challenge and Opportunity
Clayton said when H1N1 hit this country in 2009, U.S. exporters were shut out of exporting any swine genetics to China "while our government and the Chinese government had a spat going on over Chinese chicken to be imported into the U.S., and the swine seedstock industry got caught in the crossfire.
"This took almost 23 months to resolve and cost the U.S. swine export industry millions of dollars of lost sales," he continued.
Once the Chinese market was open and record numbers of swine genetics were being exported, along came Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus. Clayton said the Chinese market was closed again for about nine months until the two governments agreed on a testing protocol.
"The health issues for many countries seem to be resolved and we are seeing buyers from China, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam now in the US market buying U.S. swine genetics.
On the other hand, swine health has helped expand markets. Clayton said when Foot & Mouth Disease broke out in South Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom, those countries had a mass depopulation of animals. The U.S. was able to supply them with high quality replacements.
"The U.S. livestock export industry has a good working relationship with the USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service-Veterinary Services (USDA/APHIS/VS) that not only oversees the export of the animals, but negotiates the export protocol with other countries," said Clayton. "APHIS and the livestock trade have a good line of communication and many changes have been made through a better working relationship.
"Political issues will always be a part of the trade," Clayton added. "Sanctions against Russian over the Ukraine continue to keep that market closed to the U.S., and many times the banning of swine imports will be blamed on diseases like H1N1 or PED, but the underlying factor is politics."
Clayton said animal welfare is another issue gaining importance in overseas markets. Since most swine exports are transported by air freight, Clayton said some airlines have applied many restrictions on swine related to animal welfare and for the protection of their airplanes.
Some companies and exporters are having animal audits done to show that animals are being transported humanely.
"I tell people all the time: Our pigs travel much better than I do in economy class on most major airlines," Clayton quipped.