India to open market for U.S. pork for the first time

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

It's taken the U.S. nearly 20 years to gain access to one of the world's largest agriculture markets for its pork and pork products. That longstanding barrier was lifted this week as the Central government for the first time agreed to allow imports of U.S. pork and pork products into India.

The announcement came just days after two governments signed a framework agreement to allow export of mango and pomegranate from India to the United States.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goya, left, pictured with Montana Sen. Steve Daines, met with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met in New Delhi on Nov. 23, 2021, in talks to revive the India-US Trade Policy Forum that ultimately resulted in India opening the doors to the import of U.S. pork and pork products.

"This new opportunity marks the culmination of nearly two decades of work to gain market access for U.S. pork to India – and it signals  positive movement in U.S.-India trade relations," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a news release. "We will continue working with the Indian government to ensure that the U.S. pork industry can begin shipping its high-quality products to consumers as soon as possible."

The news follows the successful revitalization of the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum held in New Delhi in November 2021, during which with Indian Minister of Commerce Piyush Goyal.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goya met in New Delhi on November 23, reviving the India-US Trade Policy Forum. During that meeting, Tai raised the importance of access for U.S. pork and the barriers of that export into India. 

"India's agreement to allow U.S. pork imports for the first time is great news and a significant development for U.S. producers and for Indian consumers," Ambassador Tai said. "We will continue working to strengthen the U.S.-India trade relationship and I appreciate Minister Goyal’s efforts to facilitate this important development.”

In 2020, the U.S. was the world's third-largest pork producer and second-largest exporter, with global sales of pork and pork products valued at $7.7 billion. In fiscal year 2021, the U.S. exported more than $1.6 billion of agriculture products to India.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) applauded the opening of a market that had been closed to U.S. pork producers.

"We look forward to the new access, which will allow us to provide affordable, wholesome and nutritious U.S. pork products to consumers in India,” said NPPC President Jen Sorenson.

The world's second-most populous nation, which had a de facto ban on U.S. pork, has a population of 1.26 billion, meaning the potential market opportunity is significant, Sorenson said. The agreement with the United States sets the stage for larger trade discussions, a goal that seemed distant nearly three years ago when the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative terminated India’s participation in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which provides developing countries beneficial access to the U.S. market.

At the time, USTR defended the action due to India's failure to provide equitable and reasonable U.S. access to its markets, including for U.S. pork.

Sorenson said procuring access to the Indian market has been one of NPPC’s top trade priorities, which also include: elimination of China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. pork, which are 37% while competitors’ are only 12%; broader market access in Southeast Asia, including through permanent reduction of tariffs in Vietnam and the Philippines; and unfettered market access for U.S. pork in Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Jamaica, South Africa and Thailand, markets that are completely closed or only partially open to U.S. pork exports.