Hong Kong’s gradual recovery presents optimistic US meat export outlook

Hong Kong’s foodservice sector is gradually recovering from the toll COVID-19 shutdowns and limitations took, reported Dan Halstrom, president and chief executive officer of the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), after his recent market visit to the country.

During the pandemic, Hong Kong limited restaurant hours and traffic as well as tourism, which Halstrom said “decimated” the country at the foodservice level.

“The business is not back to normal yet, but you can see some definite improvements on the food service side, especially on US beef products,” he said.

US beef exports to Hong Kong increased in 2023 and will exceed $400 when year-end data is available, according to USMEF.

Halstrom pointed out that Hong Kong’s emergency declaration on COVID-19 was lifted a little over a year ago, so the country is not two and half years removed like the United States is.

“While it’s still a very muted consumer in terms of confidence, the staff on the ground there are definitely optimistic,” Halstrom said. “We do think that there’s some tail winds coming on increased foodservice demand, hopefully later this year.”

On the pork side, concerns for African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks continue in Hong Kong. Until recently, Hong Kong has had only a handful of cases. Halstrom noted that a persistent series of recent outbreaks could heighten the need for imported pork.

“Hong Kong is a relatively big market for pork as well,” he said. “The significant development there is that they’ve been really struggling — the local industry in Hong Kong — with African swine fever. It’s a situation where within the last two months we’ve seen significant culling in a relatively small herd in Hong Kong. So, this definitely could provide some short-term opportunity for US exporters on the pork side as well.”