Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation
April exports of U.S. pork were up slightly in volume (183,618 metric tons) from a year ago and 4 percent higher in value ($509.2 million), keeping 2012 exports ahead of 2011’s record pace. Through the first four months of the year, pork exports stand 6 percent higher than last year in volume (781,676 metric tons) and 16 percent higher in value ($2.17 billion), according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
April was the strongest month so far this year for U.S. beef exports, despite a decline of 8 percent in volume (94,734 metric tons) compared to last year. April export value was $469.6 million – 9 percent higher than a year ago. From January through April, beef exports were up 6 percent in value to $1.72 billion despite a 10 percent decline in volume (361,122 metric tons).
Pork export value per head slows slightly, but still on record pace
On a per-head-slaughtered basis, April pork exports equated to $57.69 – down slightly from the first quarter of this year but still more than a dollar higher than in April 2011. For the first four months of this year, exports equated to $58.84 per head.
April exports of pork muscle cuts equated to 24 percent of production, 27.7 percent when including both muscle cuts and variety meat. These ratios were roughly the same as April 2011 and slightly lower than the first quarter of this year.
Individual market highlights for U.S. pork included:
- Though April was the slowest month this year for exports to Mexico, volume was up 30 percent over April 2011 and value was 18 percent higher. Through April, 2012 exports to Mexico were up 19 percent in volume (207,095 metric tons) and 18 percent in value ($377.4 million) over last year’s record pace.
- April exports to the China/Hong Kong region were the second-largest so far this year, pushing results for the first four months of the year one-third higher in volume (154,884 metric tons) and 84 percent higher in value ($312.8 million) than the same period in 2011. However, exports to this region have slowed considerably from the peak volumes shipped in the final months of last year.
- January-April exports to Japan were down slightly in volume (161,933 metric tons) from last year but were 14 percent ahead of 2011’s record value pace at just under $700 million.
- Composed almost completely of muscle cuts, April exports to Russia were the strongest in more than six months. This pushed Russia’s 2012 results 20 percent higher in volume (25,903 metric tons) and 28 percent higher in value ($78.7 million) than a year ago.
The recovery of South Korea’s swine herd from the 2010-2011 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak has caused U.S. exports to slow from last year’s record pace. Through April, exports to Korea were down 31 percent in volume (67,061 metric tons) and 20 percent in value ($192.7 million) from a year ago. For perspective, however, it is important to note that other than 2011, these results still outpace any other year’s exports to Korea by a wide margin and were nearly double the volume shipped in the first four months of 2010.
"Considering the recovery of domestic supplies in markets such as Korea and China, pork exports have performed remarkably well through the first four months of the year," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "Despite fierce competition in Japan, we have increased our market share further this year and nearly topped $700 million in value. USMEF marketing efforts are also contributing to growth in the Western Hemisphere markets - especially in the processing and retail sectors - with Mexico leading the way. Even in our Latin American markets that are quite price-sensitive, U.S. pork is appealing to more customers than ever before."
Beef export value maintains solid pace; export value per head soars
Though beef export volume has slowed somewhat from the record pace of 2011, higher export value has been achieved in nearly every major market. Export value per head of fed slaughter has been especially strong, reaching nearly $233 in April (compared to $203.70 a year ago) and averaging $210.77 for the first four months of the year.
April beef exports equated to nearly 14 percent of production when including both muscle cuts and variety meat, and 11 percent of production for muscle cuts only. These ratios were roughly even with April 2011 but higher than in the first quarter of this year.
Individual market highlights for U.S. beef included:
- April exports to Russia were the largest of the year, pushing 2012 exports 20 percent higher in volume (24,024 metric tons) and 92 percent higher in value ($100.5 million).
- Exports to Japan slipped by 10 percent in volume (40,131 metric tons) through April but still achieved an 8 percent increase in value to $265.4 million. A Food Safety Commission review of the 20-month cattle age restriction on imports of U.S. beef continues, though no definite timeline is in place for easing of this regulation.
- Led by soaring results in Chile and substantial increases in Guatemala and Peru, exports to Central and South America were up 38 percent in volume (11,257 metric tons) and 87 percent in value ($42.9 million) through April.
- Though exports to Korea remain lower for the year, April exports were higher than a year ago and the strongest of 2012. Through the first four months of 2012, exports to Korea totaled 47,135 metric tons (down 28 percent) valued at $220.5 million (down 22 percent).
- Exports to the Middle East remained strong with value up 15 percent to $108.4 million through April and volume down just 2 percent to 47,340 metric tons. This is an especially solid performance considering the recently weakening currency in Brazil, the region’s leading beef supplier.
It is important to note that April results are not likely to reflect any change in market access or consumer behavior as a result of the recent BSE case in California, which was announced April 24.
"We are pleased that nearly all of our trading partners took a science-based approach to the situation and imposed no changes in market access for U.S. beef," explained Seng. "But when May results become available, we’ll see some impact from the suspension imposed by Saudi Arabia. We also expect to see a temporary decline in Korea, where some negative consumer reaction was apparent. USMEF is working on several fronts to minimize the impact in Korea, and the situation is far better than it was four years ago when the market first reopened to U.S. beef. However, BSE is still a very sensitive issue in that market."
Weak April results for lamb exports
U.S. lamb exports were down 31 percent in volume (4,243 metric tons) and 16 percent in value ($8.2 million) through April, due in part to weak demand in the Caribbean. April volume (948 metric tons) was down 55 percent from a year ago while value was down 48 percent to $1.8 million.
Complete export statistics for U.S. pork, beef and lamb are available online.