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April Pork, Beef Export Value Well Above 2009 Levels

June 14, 2010

Beef Today Editors

U.S. pork exports had an impressive month in April, and the news was even better for U.S. beef. U.S. pork/pork variety meat export value increased by about 7% over April 2009 and reached its highest level since November 2008. Beef/beef variety meat export value topped its year-ago level by 27% and was about 10% higher than in April 2003, the last year of "pre-BSE” market access.

According to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), April pork/pork variety meat exports totaled 156,211 metric tons (344.4 million pounds) valued at $400.95 million, bringing the cumulative January-April total to 625,004 metric tons (1.38 billion pounds) valued at $1.51 billion. April beef plus beef variety meat exports totaled 82,827 metric tons (182.6 million pounds) valued at $311.3 million, bringing the cumulative 2010 total to 307,949 metric tons (678.9 million pounds) valued at $1.1 billion.

April results were even more impressive when focused solely on muscle cuts. Pork muscle cut value ($345 million) was 11% above April 2009, while beef muscle cut value ($268 million) was up 37% from a year ago

Beef Exports Up Sharply in Most Key Markets  

While economic conditions remain difficult for U.S. beef in Mexico, exports are thriving in all other key global markets. For the year, Mexico remains the No. 1 market in terms of both volume (77,027 metric tons or  169.8 million pounds and value ($246.9 million) but these totals are down by 25% and 27% respectively compared to the first four months of 2009.

Despite dramatic gains in many overseas markets, Canada remains the No. 2 destination for U.S. beef. Beef/beef variety meat exports to Canada are up 13% in volume (45,563 metric tons or 100.5 million pounds) and 17% in value ($199.4 million) compared to January-April 2009. In fact, April export value to Canada ($59.9 million) pulled within just 4% of Mexico ($62.2 million).

U.S. beef exports to Asia continued to grow at a torrid pace in April. Japan is the leading Asian market in 2010 in terms of both volume (26,740 metric tons or 58.9 million pounds) and value ($141.8 million). Each of these totals represents an increase of 34 percent over January-April 2009. But South Korea is right on Japan's heels, with a volume of 26,321 metric tons (58 million pounds) valued at $112.3 million – increases of 39% and 58%, respectively, over last year.

The ASEAN region also performed very well in April, pushing its totals for the year up by 14% in volume (29,589 metric tons or 65.2 million pounds) and 16% in value ($97.9 million). Interestingly, this increase was achieved despite fairly flat results in Vietnam – by far the largest ASEAN market. The primary growth drivers were the Philippines and Indonesia, the No. 2 and No. 3 markets in the region.

Taiwan appears to have shaken off any lingering controversy over the recent reintroduction of U.S. bone-in beef, and may be headed for another record performance in 2010. Exports to Taiwan were up 69% in volume (11,533 metric tons or 25.4 million pounds) and 79% in value ($60 million).

Hong Kong has also achieved rapid growth this year, nearly tripling its imports of U.S. beef in terms of both volume (9,099 metric tons or 20.1 million pounds) and value ($35.6 million).

"The growth our beef industry is achieving in Asia right now is extremely encouraging,” said USMEF Chair Jim Peterson, a rancher from Buffalo, Mont. "Despite the market access limitations we still face in several of these markets, their appetite for U.S. beef is clearly on the rise. As a cattleman, it's really gratifying to see our exports to Asia gaining so much momentum.”

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