WASHINGTON — Exports of US pet food fell in 2023 after hitting record levels in the previous two calendar years. The total value of US dog and cat food exports last year was $2.41 billion, down 3% from $2.48 billion in 2022. From 2021 to 2022, exports were up 20% from $2.06 billion.

According to the Pet Food Institute (PFI), whose membership accounts for approximately 90% of pet food manufacturers across the country, several factors have compounded to cause this slight decline in 2023.

“Inflation, rising costs and the Asian economic downturn have caused consumers to be more price-driven when choosing pet food,” PFI stated. “US pet food is widely recognized as healthy and safe in Asian markets, [but] local brands can adapt quickly to consumer attitude shifts, and they are often priced lower than US pet food.”

Despite a downturn far overseas, other markets in the Western Hemisphere remain strong for US dog and cat food imports. Canada continues to be the United States’ largest export market for dog and cat food at a value of $1.20 billion in 2023, up 6.9% from $1.12 billion in 2022. Exports to Mexico and Jamaica saw strong year-over-year growth. US dog and cat food exports to Mexico were valued at $206.31 million in 2023, up 16.0% from $177.93 million in 2022, and exports to Jamaica were valued at $5.25 million in 2023, up 16.9% from $4.50 million in 2022.

Mexico was the third-largest importer of US dog and cat foods, while China was the second-largest, despite the value of US dog and cat food exports to the country falling 2.5% from $264.20 million in 2022 to $257.60 million in 2023, according to US Census Bureau Trade Data shared by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

While still making up a much smaller percentage of total US dog and cat food exports in 2023, exports to Belgium-Luxembourg posted the highest year-over-year growth, up a whopping 357.9% from $418,000 in 2022 to $1.91 million in 2023. Other smaller but high-growth markets include:

  • Lithuania, up 80.0% from $324,000 in 2022 to $554,000 in 2023
  • Tanzania, up 44.1% from $34,000 in 2022 to $49,000 in 2023
  • Iraq, up 40.0% from $80,000 in 2022 to $112,000 in 2023
  • French Pacific Islands, up 35.6% from $581,000 in 2022 to $788,000 in 2023
  • Samoa, up 27.0% from $37,000 in 2022 to $47,000 in 2023
  • Sweden, up 19.9% from $985,000 in 2022 to nearly $1.2 million in 2023
  • Romania, up 18.2% from $1.6 million in 2022 to $1.9 million in 2023
  • Turks and Caicos, up 17.9% from $515,000 in 2022 to $607,000 in 2023

Looking to 2024 and beyond, the concept of pets as members of the family is expected to continue to influence the way people feed their four-legged companions on a global scale. Pet food manufactured in the United States retains a worldwide reputation for being safe and healthy, according to PFI, providing ample opportunity for the industry to meet these consumer demands as they take shape abroad.

To assist this endeavor, there are several tools at the industry’s disposal for engaging and educating consumers in prospective export markets. The USDA Market Access Program (MAP), for example, provides funding to groups — including PFI and the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) — that organize marketing campaigns promoting the safety, quality and nutritional efficacy of US pet food products in 17 targeted international markets. These countries currently include Brazil, China, Columbia, Costa Rica, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates.

PFI works with local representatives in each of these countries to attend events, carry out media campaigns, and educate consumers and industry stakeholders about the benefits of feeding American-made pet food. AFIA conducts similar business to support US pet food exports abroad. In January, the USDA announced it would provide $1.3 million in funding to PFI to support these efforts, as well as $170,000 to AFIA.

Additionally, PFI offers its Market Tracker resource to help US industry members keep tabs on potential export opportunities and trends in the 17 markets targeted through the USDA MAP.

PFI is exploring ways in which it can support US dog and cat food exports to markets that floundered in 2023. The association has applied for additional funding through the USDA Regional Agriculture Promotion Program (RAPP), which specifically targets US agricultural export opportunities in latent markets across Africa, Asia and Latin America. If received, the funds would support efforts in Brazil, South Korea, Central America, Taiwan and South Africa.

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