Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation
U.S. pork exports in May were up 3 percent in volume (186,809 metric tons) from a year ago and 9 percent higher in value ($524.3 million). Through the first five months of the year, pork exports exceeded last year’s record pace by 6 percent in volume (968,485 metric tons) and 15 percent in value ($2.7 billion).
Although May was the strongest month so far this year for U.S. beef exports, volume (95,221 metric tons) was down 13 percent compared to May 2011 and stood 10 percent lower (456,343 metric tons) through the first five months of the year. Beef export value in May ($471.1 million) was 4 percent higher than a year ago, which kept year-to-date export value ($2.19 billion) 5 percent ahead of last year’s record pace. These results are based on statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Pork export value surges in most major markets
With the exceptions of South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, U.S. pork export value is trending upward to every major destination. Exports to Korea were extremely high in 2011, due in part to a foot-and-mouth disease-related shortage of domestic pork and temporary duty-free access for a large volume of imports. U.S. exports to Korea through May stood at 77,790 metric tons valued at $222.8 million, down 32 percent in volume and 19 percent in value from last year’s record pace, but still far exceeding exports in the first five months of any previous year.
Mexico continues to perform well as the leading volume destination for U.S. pork, and ranks No. 2 in value. While May exports to Mexico were about even with last year, exports through the first five months of the year were 15 percent higher in volume (254,059 metric tons) and 13 percent higher in value ($463.6 million). USMEF recently launched a campaign to build overall demand in Mexico by enhancing the image of pork and broadening its appeal among Mexican consumers.
"USMEF has reached agreements with several major supermarket chains in Mexico - totaling more than 500 outlets - to help USMEF promote pork through advertising and point-of-sale materials and to collect important sales data for evaluating the effectiveness of the campaign," explained USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "Per capita pork consumption in Mexico is only about 25 pounds per year, compared to 47 pounds in the United States. So we feel there is still great potential for expansion of overall demand, with the U.S. industry positioned to be the primary beneficiary."
Japan remains the leading value destination for U.S. pork, with exports through May reaching $869.1 million. This is 10 percent above last year’s record pace, despite a 5 percent decline in volume (199,061 metric tons).
Other pork highlights for January-May 2012 include:
• Despite an upswing in domestic pork supplies and a softening of the hog market in China, exports to the China/Hong Kong region were up 34 percent in volume (192,926 metric tons) and 83 percent in value ($389.2 million).
• Exports to Canada were up 14 percent in volume (91,424 metric tons) and 19 percent in value ($328.7 million).
• In the first year under a new quota system, exports to Russia are off to an excellent start – 35 percent higher in both volume (39,132 metric tons) and value ($115 million).
• In the Central and South America region, where U.S. pork and beef are currently on display at the USMEF Latin American Product Showcase in Bogota, Colombia, pork exports were up 13 percent in volume (33,266 metric tons) and 16 percent in value ($85 million). This expansion was led by growth in Colombia, where exports were up 62 percent in volume (5,596 metric tons) and more than doubled in value ($15.9 million).
• The controversy over beta agonists continues to create a difficult business climate in Taiwan, where pork exports were down 45 percent in volume (8,108 metric tons) and 29 percent in value ($18.2 million). Larger domestic supplies have also impacted this market, as Taiwan’s pork imports from all sources are down nearly 40 percent this year.
Beef exports show no major fallout from BSE case, but volume growth elusive
With the April 24 announcement of the fourth BSE case in the United States, May was the first month in which any BSE-related decline could be detected in export statistics. May beef exports did not reveal a major impact, though global totals were likely affected to some degree by the market closure in Saudi Arabia and negative media coverage in some Asian markets.
"All things considered, we are pleased with the manner in which beef exports have weathered the most recent BSE case," Seng said. "With the exception of Saudi Arabia, we have not suffered any significant setbacks in terms of market access. And though we expected consumer interest to slow temporarily in markets such as Korea, the May export results were actually quite strong."
Seng explained that while year-to-date exports to Korea were down 24 percent in volume (58,143 metric tons) and 17 percent in value ($273.1 million), May results were higher (+5 percent in volume, +13 percent in value) in both categories. He said the main factors impacting U.S. beef exports to Korea in 2012 are an oversupply of domestic beef and a slumping Korean currency, noting that Australia’s beef exports to Korea have also declined by about one-third compared to last year.
In several major markets, beef export volume has slowed moderately compared to the first five months of last year but increases in export value were still achieved. Examples include:
• Japan, where volume was down 6 percent to 56,297 metric tons but value was 13 percent higher at $370.7 million. In May, Japan was the largest destination for U.S. beef with the highest export volume (16,166 metric tons) in 10 months. Export value was up 28 percent from May 2011 to $105.3 million. Regulatory officials in Japan continue to examine the 20-month cattle age limit on beef imported from the United States, Canada and the European Union, but have so far enacted no change in the policy.
• In Canada, the only $1 billion market for U.S. beef in 2011, export volume was down 7 percent to 64,260 metric tons but value was up 10 percent to $404.5 million.
• In the Middle East, export volume was down 7 percent to 60,106 metric tons while value was up 10 percent to $138.1 million. Although Saudi Arabia was the only country in this region to close to U.S. beef due to the BSE case, confusion regarding possible restrictions (which never materialized) in some other markets may have affected May results. Despite these issues, however, May export volume (12,766 metric tons) to the region was the largest since January.
• In the ASEAN region, export volume (25,964 metric tons) was down 12 percent while value ($112.3 million) was 13 percent higher. This trend was made possible by a surge in export value to the two largest markets, Vietnam (+21 percent to $82.6 million) and the Philippines (+31 percent to $18.9 million).
• In Hong Kong, where U.S. exports are still limited to boneless muscle cuts from cattle under 30 months of age, export volume (19,566 metric tons) was down 15 percent while export value ($112.9 million) was 12 percent higher. May export volume to Hong Kong (4,592 metric tons) was the largest of the year.
Two regions in which U.S. beef exports are surging in both volume and value are Russia and Central and South America. Though export activity to Russia has slowed in recent weeks, January-May exports were 24 percent ahead of last year’s record pace in volume (32,307 metric tons) and 83 percent higher in value ($138.8 million). Bolstered by terrific growth in Chile, exports to Central and South America were up 42 percent in volume (14,715 metric tons) and 83 percent in value ($53.8 million).
"In Russia, we are aggressively promoting U.S. beef across several sectors and in a variety of geographic regions," Seng said. "From the Black Sea coast where the next Winter Olympics will be held, to the far eastern port of Vladivostok, U.S. beef is becoming more widely known and is in very high demand. Russia has expanded the import quota for U.S. beef this year, and we intend to make full use of that opportunity."
"In Central and South America, we have capitalized on some excellent growth opportunities," he explained. "Trade barriers have limited available supplies from Paraguay and Argentina, increasing demand in markets such as Chile, Peru and Colombia. This is one reason for the tremendous interest in this week’s USMEF Latin American Product Showcase, which has attracted a strong turnout of buyers and exporters to Bogota."
As with pork, U.S. beef exports have slowed dramatically to Taiwan. Exports in May were down about 90 percent from last year, while year-to-date exports were 54 percent lower in volume (6,175 metric tons) and 47 percent lower in value ($39 million). While the Taiwanese government is expected to take action soon on a maximum residue level (MRL) for ractopamine in imported beef, U.S. beef sales likely face a lengthy recovery due to the political controversy surrounding this issue.
Lamb exports trend lower
After last year’s record performance, U.S. lamb exports have endured a difficult start in 2012. Through May, exports were down 36 percent in volume (5,109 metric tons) and 20 percent in value ($10.1 million). Exports to leading market Mexico were down 7 percent in volume and 3 percent in value, and results were significantly lower in the Caribbean and Central and South America. Panama was a bright spot in this region, however, as exports were up 71 percent in volume (29 metric tons) and 165 percent in value ($105,000).
Complete export statistics for U.S. pork, beef and lamb are available online.